Kentucky advanced to a matchup against unbeaten No. 1 seed Wichita State by dispatching Kansas State 56-49 on Friday night in St. Louis. The 8th-seeded Wildcats got 19 points and 15 rebounds from freshman forward Julius Randle to power their way past the Big 12 opponent.
"Great win for us," UK coach John Calipari said. "I'm really proud of these guys. A little nerve-racking for them. My whole team, none of them have ever been in an NCAA Tournament game, so I was pleased."
"He and I spoke. I had a couple of teams that have gone through what he went through, and I said I didn't do as good a job as you have, which is take it off the kids and let 'em just keep playing basketball. I said, I felt it, the teams that I had that were 26-0. I was almost happy we lost. Just get this off. He's handled it superbly. He really has."
Kentucky (25-10) shot just 38 percent from the field and turned the ball over 15 times, but as it has done to so many opponents this season, dominated Kansas State 40-28 on the glass. In addition to Randle's strong boardwork, sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein came off the bench to grab eight rebounds to go along with four blocked shots and four steals.
"It's hard to drive on us when he's in there," Calipari said of Cauley-Stein's active defensive night. The 7-footer from Kansas passed Nerlens Noel on UK's single-season blocks list with 105.
Randle's double-double was his 21st of the season, breaking the UK freshman record held by current NBA stars DeMarcus Cousins (2010) and Anthony Davis (2012).
Aaron Harrison added 18 points for UK, nine in each half, in a balanced scoring effort.
Kansas State (20-13) was held to 36 percent from the field and hit just five of 21 attempts from 3-point range. The Big 12's Wildcats were 0-for-7 from long range in the first half in falling behind 29-23 at the break.
Kentucky saw its lead cut to 35-33 early in the second half before a 14-5 run opened up some breathing room. The spurt included scoring by five different Cats, capped by a Randle three-point play to make it 49-38.
UK went without a basket over the final three minutes of action and missed four of nine free throws as Kansas State scratched to within six points with some late 3s, but Bruce Weber's club could draw no closer.
Marcus Foster scored 15 points to lead Kansas State. Shane Southwell and Thomas Gipson added 11 and 10, respectively, for the purple-clad Wildcats.
• Kentucky improved to 9-0 all-time against Kansas State, including a 2-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament.
• UK leads the nation with a 112-46 all-time mark in the NCAA Tournament, including a 43-10 record in tourney openers.
• The Cats improved to 6-1 in NCAA games played in St. Louis.
• UK is now 14-2 in NCAA Tournament games under Calipari.