Morris posted another "double-double" with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Cats. Meeks added 12 points. Crawford and junior Ramel Bradley also scored in double digits. Senior Sheray Thomas provided spark off the bench with seven points and seven rebounds. Kentucky now advances to the second round of the NCAA against #1 seed Kansas on Sunday.
Kentucky drew first blood with a Morris layup, but Nova freshman Scottie Reynolds hit his first three shots to put coach Jay Wright's club ahead 11-9. Guard Mike Nardi hot a long range shot to give Villanova its largest lead at 14-9. In a seesaw battle Thomas and freshman Perry Stevenson would both score buckets and Bradley would hit consecutive shots from two- and three-point range to knot the game at 18 each.
Curtis Sumpter and Reynolds would provide most of the offense for Villanova and Thomas, Morris, Crawford and Bradley spread the scoring around for Kentucky, which took a slim 30-28 lead into the locker at halftime.
Villanova came out of the blocks hot to open the second half and went on a 6-0 run to take an early 34-30 lead before Crawford hit a short hook to start UK's big run. Villanova tried to get back into the game but could get no closer than five to Kentucky, the last time coming on a Reynolds old-fashioned three point play at the 2:03 mark.
Kentucky shot 45% from the field and out rebounded Villanova 31-29. They also played great defense on freshman sensation Reynolds, who did not score his first bucket in the second half until the 2:14 mark. Reynolds finished with 23 points but on just 6-18 shooting from the field. Sumpter scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
On Sunday Kentucky will faced the Kansas Jayhawks for the 25th time. The Wildcats hold a 19-5 series advantage but the Jayhawks have won four of the last seven meetings between the two programs. The last time the two teams met in the NCAA, Kentucky won a heart stopper 92-88 overtime.