Defense rises to occasion as Kentucky Wildcats outlast Wichita State Shockers

Cats block Shockers' final two field goal attempts, advance to Sweet 16.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Malik Monk is learning there are more ways than simply putting the ball through the hoop to win a game.

Kentucky's talented freshman guard displayed his continued growth as a player in the final minute Sunday against Wichita State, shaking off a subpar shooting day to block a shot which helped the Wildcats hold off the Shockers 65-62 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Asked where that defensive gem ranked in his career, Monk sheepishly said, "Probably my first one." 

It was one of two huge defensive plays down the stretch for No. 2 seed Kentucky. Freshman center Bam Adebayo also blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Wichita State's Landry Shamet at the buzzer to clinch the victory.

The Cats held the 10th-seeded Shockers, one of the nation's most dangerous offensive clubs, to 38.7 percent from the field and an 8-for-24 day from beyond the arc. 

"When you have a young team, it really takes the whole season to get them to buy in and defend," UK head coach John Calipari said.

Kentucky (31-5) advances to face the winner of tonight's Cincinnati-UCLA game next Friday in the South Region semifinals at Memphis. Wichita State capped its season at 31-5 after only the second matchup between 30-win teams ever on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. 

In a rematch of the schools' classic 2014 NCAA tourney meeting, UK led 28-26 at the half, never trailed by more than four, and never led by more seven.

De'Aaron Fox and Monk each scored 14 points to lead the Cats, while Adebayo added 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. UK seniors Derek Willis (9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) and Dominique Hawkins (7 points) also contributed heavily to the win.

Kentucky shot 42 percent from the field, made seven of 18 from beyond the arc, and committed only seven turnovers. 

Shamet led Wichita State with 20 points. 

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In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the game...     

WHAT WE LIKED:

Kentucky faced one of the toughest challenges a No. 2 seed has ever encountered in playing a 31-win team in its second game of the NCAA Tournament. Wichita State also proved that it had a legitimate beef over being a No. 10 seed, matching the Wildcats blow for blow from the opening tip to the final horn. This one should have been played next weekend, but in spite of the NCAA Selection Committee's mistake, the Cats and Shockers are now 2-for-2 in giving us a March classic.   

GAME BALL:

Bam Adebayo, Kentucky -- The Cats' young center joined Julius Randle as the only freshmen in school history to ever record a double-double in each of their first two NCAA Tournament games. His physical presence was huge against a burly Wichita State squad, led by 6-8, 265-pound Shaquille Morris in the post. Morris had a solid game with 11 points and eight rebounds, but Adebayo clearly came out on top. 

BY THE NUMBERS:

1st - Time in school history that UK has had three freshmen (Fox, Monk, Adebayo) score at least 12 points in each of their first two NCAA Tournament games. 

7-1 - The Cats' record under Calipari in NCAA games decided by three or fewer points.

13 - Game win streak for UK, the longest active streak in the nation.

14 - Minutes spanning the first and second halves without a turnover for the Cats.

15-1 - UK's record in NCAA games under Calipari when holding opponents under 40 percent from the field.

25 - Kentucky Sweet 16 appearances since 1975.

QUOTABLE:

"I’ve come a long way. I never played defense, never had to play defense. I knew coming to Kentucky, to play, I had to play defense.”." -- UK freshman guard Malik Monk.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action next Friday in the Sweet 16. The Wildcats will face the winner of tonight's game between UCLA (3) and Cincinnati (6) in Memphis. 


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