The Wildcats will move on to round two, where they will face top seed Connecticut on Sunday, who also advanced with a tough victory over Albany State. Rajon Rondo added eight points and nine rebounds.
Kentucky used solid defense, rebounding and ball-handling to overcome a poor shooting night. The Wildcats shot just 31% from the field and just over 20% from three point range. Kentucky was sluggish from the gate, allowing UAB to lead most of the first half. The Blazers built an early 6-point lead at 16-10 when Richard Jones hit a three point shot at the 12:16 mark.
But the Wildcats defense would tighten and force UAB into three straight turnovers. The Cats went on a 6-0 run to capture the lead at 21-19 at the 7:45 mark. It would be UAB that would take a three point lead into the locker room at the half, 33-30.
In the second half neither team could take control of the game. Sophomore Rajon Rondo would open the half with a layup, to pull the Cats to within just one point. Bobby Perry would then score the Cats' next nine points. The last three were scored with a three point jumper to give the Cats a little breathing rooms at 41-37 at the 17:47 mark.
UAB would keep the game close, but the Wildcats managed to maintain a razor thing lead at just 58-56 at the 6:30 mark. Perry would give the Cats its largest lead to that point at 61-56 with a three pointer.
Randolph Morris, benched for much of the game with foul problems, made his presence felt down the stretch. The 6-foot-10 sophomore center made four straight free throws to extend the Wildcats lead to six at 65-59 at the 1:59 mark.
Kentucky would out rebound UAB 41-30 but the story of the game came at the free throw line, where UK was an impressive 26-30, while UAB shot just 9-17.
The victory gave the Wildcats a 3-0 record in Philadelphia and improved the team to 1-2 against UAB in the NCAA Tournament.