Two key blocks seal UK victory in classic against Wichita State

during the game against the Wichita State Shockers in the second round game of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN on Sunday, March 19, 2017. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff

Anthony Crawford

INDIANAPOLIS — It didn’t have the prettiest start, but the NCAA Second Round game between No. 2 UK men’s basketball and No. 10 Wichita turned out to be another classic. The game was a one-possession game in the closing minutes, but UK’s blocks on the Shockers last two possessions sealed the 65-62 victory for the Cats.

Both teams started the game shooting poorly from the field and the pace, overall, in the first half largely favored the Shockers. UK and Wichita State both shot under 35 percent in the first half, and neither were aided much by the officials as both teams only made one trip to the free throw line.

UK’s young players fighting and playing up to Wichita State’s physicality was a concern entering the game. UK struggled to find a group of fighters to hang with the Shockers in the first half.

During a very unconventional stretch for UK, the team played without a freshman on the court and instead rolled out a lineup compromised of sophomores Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries along with the team’s three seniors — Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder.

UK was outscored 10-9 during that stretch, which lasted nearly six minutes, but Hawkins separated himself as a guy who could produce for UK. He had seven points in the first half and shot a perfect 3-for-3 from the field.

The game was a back-and-forth affair the rest of the half, but five straight points from Malik Monk, including his first three-pointer of the tournament, put UK ahead 26-24 going into halftime. 

Things changed in the second half as the teams started to get up-and-down the court more. Wichita State jumped out to a seven-point lead though, before Willis hit a big three from the corner to get UK back on track.

The Cats got on a roll after that, and a Briscoe layup and a Bam Adebayo alley-oop slam made it a 7-0 run for UK.

Adebayo continued to be big for UK after that stretch, as the Shockers had answers for some of UK’s runs but not him inside.

Adebayo finished with 13 points in the game, after scoring only two points in the first half. He also provided the toughness inside in the battle of the boards, pulling down 10 rebounds (four offensive) in the game. Adebayo has turned in double-double in his first two NCAA tournament games of his career.

Wichita didn’t just lay down for the Cats though. Redshirt freshman Landry Shamet scored eight of the Shockers last 11 points and made it a one-point game in the process with under a minute remaining in the game.

With a chance to take the lead for the Shockers, Markis McDuffie had his shot rejected by Monk, who secured the rebound and was fouled. Monk hit both free throws, making it a three-point game with 10.6 seconds left.

With no timeouts for the Shockers, Shamet took matters into his own hands once again, but his game-tying three-point attempt was turned away by Adebayo with Hawkins also assisting in the pressure.

Adebayo secured the rebound as time expired, sealing the victory for the Cats in another classic against Wichita State. 

UK advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the sixth time in eight years under head coach John Calipari. The Cats will play the winner of UCLA/Cincinnati in Memphis, Tennessee next weekend.