[SLIDESHOW]Hot shooting leads Cats to 90-60 win over Wake Forest


Starting players on the bench celebrate after Mark Krebs makes a three pointer during the second half of UK’s second round win, 90-60 over Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament at New Orleans Arena on Saturday, March 20, 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

NEW ORLEANS – UK gave the Big Easy another big blowout.

Sophomore guard Darius Miller scored a career-high 20 points and freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins poured in 19, leading a group of four Cats who scored 13 or more points, and UK (34-2) cruised to a 90-60 win over Wake Forest to advance to the Sweet 16.

For UK, the wheels kept rolling in their drive to what they hope finishes at the Final Four in Indianapolis. After shooting 51.7 percent from the field against East Tennessee State on Thursday evening, the Cats shot a blazing 66.7 percent in the first half against Wake Forest, including 6-of-7 shooting from Miller.

“I don’t know what happened to Darius but I hope he keeps it up,” Cousins said.

When he plays aggressively like that, it helps our team out tremendously. I mean, it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

Miller, who played for the U.S. under-19 National Team over the summer, shot just 1-for-5 in the Cats’ first round blowout, but after missing his first field goal of the game, a 3-point attempt, Miller was nearly unstoppable. The Maysville, Ky., native and former Kentucky Mr. Basketball hit his next seven shots and finished the game with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds.

“It’s not going to be everybody’s night, somebody else is going to have to step up,” freshman guard Eric Bledsoe said. “Darius, I think, did a big part because he can see what he’s capable of doing. He can help us out. Once he knocks down shots, as you can see, we beat teams by a lot of points.”

UK will face Cornell in the Sweet 16 in Syracuse, N.Y. The winner of that game will then go up against upstart Washington or West Virginia.

“The people that are going to be in that region, it’s going to be ridiculous,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “You’re going to have four teams that are good enough, all four, to go win the national title.”

The Cats continued their hot shooting in the second half, hitting their first 11 shots from the field, and hitting 23 of their first 25 two-point field goal attempts for the game. With 11:59 showing on the clock, the Cats were shooting over 76 percent from the field–gaudy numbers junior forward Patrick Patterson said he hadn’t realized while the game was going on.

“I couldn’t believe that we were up by 30 or more,” Patterson said. “I was like, ‘Man, is this right, right now?’ ”

With 9:39 left in the game, perhaps frustrated with trailing by 30 points, Wake Forest senior forward Chas McFarland was called for a hard intentional foul on Cousins. Cousins laid on the ground before later getting up laughing, waving for the crowd to cheer. Daniel Orton was given a technical foul for pushing McFarland in defense of his teammate.

“We’re brothers,” Cousins said. “We protect each other. When Daniel did that I knew it was all love.”

On Friday, Cousins laughed when asked about McFarland’s reputation for getting under opposing players’ skin. Before the game began, during player introductions, McFarland waited at half court, and after Cousins came out toward midcourt, McFarland turned around and didn’t shake his hand.

“Come on, that was a middle school move, man,” Cousins said.

With two NCAA Tournament games under their belts, UK looks to be clicking at the right point in the season, averaging 95 points in their opening two games. Freshman guard John Wall, who scored 14 points and handed out seven assists, said they played “out of (their) minds,” and did a great job of following the game plan.

Now, with No. 1 Kansas’ upset-loss to Northern Iowa, the Cats will be the favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis on April 5, but they said they weren’t worried about that and welcome the idea of being the favorites.

“This might be our last time with a team this good,” Wall said. “We have a chance to do something special. Coming into the tournament me and Pat sat down and talked to the team and Coach challenged us saying, ‘‘This is your last chance, you’ve got six games to try and do it all.’ ”

Despite shooting a combined 56.1 percent in their first two games and hitting 22 3-pointers, Cousins believes they still have room for improvement.

“We can still get better,” Cousins said. “I wish it was like the middle of the season so we could still – I want to see how good we can actually get. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know how good we can be.”