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Bob Dixon

Agency Manager


Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

Kentucky Steamrolls Abilene Christian 79-44 in NCAA Tourney

By Jamie H. Vaught

It was no surprise the No. 2 seed Wildcats performed very well without injured PJ Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night in Jacksonville as they dominated No. 15 seed Abilene Christian 79-44.

However, if UK is going to make a serious run to the Final Four, it will need Washington on the playing floor. The third-team All-American is the team's best player with team-leading 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.

The opening-round victory over ACU improved UK's record to 28-6 and Kentucky will face the winner of Seton Hall-Wofford matchup on Saturday. Abilene Christian, which made its first-ever appearance in the Big Dance, finished at 27-7.

While Washington, who was sidelined with his sprained ankle in a hard cast after wearing a walking boot earlier, cheered the Cats from the bench, UK raced to a fast start and ended the first half with a comfortable 39-13 margin. ACU, which was overmatched by a much larger Kentucky club, never recovered afterwards.

UK's largest lead was 36 points with 5:37 left in the second half.

Kentucky dominated the boards, outrebounding ACU by a 44-17 margin with big men EJ Montgomery and Reid Travis grabbing 11 and 9 rebounds, respectively.

"We thought we had an advantage there mainly because of our size, and Reid's strength, and it was one of the things we said, if we're going to beat these guys, our rebounding has got to be really -- we've got to separate from them in that, so I thought we did it," said UK coach John Calipari (pictured).

"Our defense made it difficult," added Calipari.

Freshman Keldon Johnson led UK's scoring attack, hitting 25 points, including 3 of 5 three-pointers. Travis and Tyler Herro added 18 and 14 points, respectively.

Asked about Washington's condition and availability in the tournament, Calipari commented, "Well, first of all, the option was a boot or the cast. The cast would speed up the healing, so we said, put the cast on.

"Whether they'll take it off tomorrow to check it, I don't know. If they don't, he won't play Saturday, and then they'll probably try to take it off Tuesday or Wednesday of next week to see how his foot feels.

"Everything was negative as far as the X-rays (and MRI). It was a sprained foot, so they just want to keep it calm, so that's what it is."

Travis said it's not easy to play without Washington.

"He makes our team better all season," explained Travis, a graduate transfer who was playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time. "We feel like we play off of each other really well...Unfortunately he's out and we're happy to have him back when he gets healthy and all that, but we had guys build their confidence over the last couple of weeks with me being out, but I thought it was good. Guys stepped up and we were able to play good minutes."

Under Calipari's direction, Kentucky now improves to a 27-9 mark in the NCAA tournament.

UK Athletics Photo by Chet White


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