The Kentucky Wildcats defeated a talented, gritty Washington squad 74-67 in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.
After falling down 4-0 early the Wildcats exchanged baskets with the Huskies, then went on an 18-0 run to take a 14 point lead. The lead did not last, as UDub chipped away at the Kentucky lead as Darius Miller and Brandon Knight looked on from the bench, after picking up two fouls each in the early going.
With Knight on the bench baskets proved to be difficult to come by for the Wildcats. Abdul Gaddy's deuce at the 2:00 mark tied the game at 30, then a Darnell Gant three at 1:21 gave Washington a 33-30 lead.
Doron Lamb's basket at the :47 mark cut the lead to one. A dunk by Aziz N'Diaye extended the Washington lead back to three. A Josh Harrellson putback with three seconds remaining set the halftime margin, 35-34.
The first ten minutes of the second half saw the two teams trade leads numerous times.
The game was tied at 50 with ten minutes remaining when the Wildcats went on a 14-5 run to take a 64-55 lead.
Over the next four minutes of play the Huskies cut into the lead, cutting it to two at 69-67 with less than a minute to play. Over the remaining 49 seconds the Huskies executed their defensive plan to perfection, as they sent the Wildcats to the charity stripe on each of their offensive possessions. Kentucky, which had struggled from the line throughout the game, hit five of their six free throws. On the defensive end the Wildcats held the Huskies scoreless, and perhaps more importantly limited Washington's looks at the basket to seal the win, 74-67.
Brandon Knight led the Wildcats in scoring with 24 points, despite having to sit a number of minutes in both halves due to foul trouble.
Terrence Jones flirted with a 20-20 game as he racked up 16 points and 17 rebounds. Josh Harrellson missed a double-double by the slimmest of margins as the Kentucky big man scored 9 points and gathered in 14 rebounds.
The game often resembled an NCAA regional type matchup as the teams went toe-to-toe, each playing tough, physical defense. The defense and fatigue caused both teams to shoot under 40% from the field, and limited two normally potent three-point attacks to only three made baskets from behind the arc each.
The game featured 16 blocked shots, with the Wildcats blocking nine of those shots. Kentucky picked up 8 steals, while the Huskies came away with 7. Each team forced 14 turnovers, Kentucky only turned the ball over twice in the second half.
Kentucky will now take on another team of Huskies as the Wildcats are set to meet UConn in the finals Wednesday evening.
Connecticut, picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big East, upset Michigan State to earn its spot in the finals.
Good Knight, Washington!
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