Kentucky basketball cruises in NCAA first round


Kentucky graduate student forward Reid Travis shoots the ball during the game against Abilene Christian in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019, at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

The second-seeded UK basketball team rolled past its first-round matchup without forward P.J. Washington on Thursday. UK beat the 15th-seeded Abilene Christian Wildcats 79-44. Reid Travis put on a show, cleaning up misses for 18 points and nine rebounds.

The physicality of the Cats from Lexington was simply too much for ACU to handle. UK had 11 second-chance points at the same time ACU had 10 total, and they won the rebounding battle 44-17.

Without Washington in the game, forwards E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards were given extended minutes, just like they were when Travis was injured for five games.

Montgomery finished with three points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes.

Richards struggled, scoring eight points, only grabbing four rebounds and racking up three first-half fouls. He saw improvement in the last eight minutes of the game, in which he scored all of his points and grabbed all but one of his rebounds.

Freshmen Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson showed off their offensive skill sets, combining for 39 points (25 for Johnson, 14 for Herro).

The game belonged to Kentucky from the start. UK scored eight unanswered points before ACU got on the board, and it all belonged to the Cats from Lexington after that. They only allowed 13 points from Abilene Christian in the first half, the lowest for a tournament game in school history.

In the first half, Herro was the primary scorer alongside Travis, as they both picked up 12 points.

Richards had an injury scare with less than two minutes to go, as he was undercut by ACU forward Hayden Farquhar on a rebound attempt. Richards hit the floor hard on his shoulder, but was able to shoot the free throws and stay in the game.

Kentucky will advance to face the winner of Seton Hall and Wofford.