NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The initiation of Kentucky's fabulous
freshmen to the NCAA tournament went as well as John Calipari could
Eric Bledsoe set a school record for 3-pointers in a tournament
game with eight during a 29-point effort, and the top-seeded
Wildcats led by 30 in the first half and 40 in the second while
cruising to 100-71 blowout of East Tennessee State.
"Hopefully, we're this good," Calipari said. "I'm not sure if
we are, but we'll see if we can keep it going."
That result had spectators falling asleep in their seats
Thursday evening, but those who waited around for the late game
between Wake Forest and Texas saw an overtime thriller. It ended
with Ishmael Smith's pull-up jumper in the final seconds of the
extra session lifting the Demon Deacons to an 81-80 victory.
The eighth-seeded Longhorns' loss punctuated a puzzling slide
from as high as No. 1 in the national rankings in January to a
first-round exit from the NCAA tournament.
"Towards the season, we stopped doing the little things that
made us a good team," said Texas point guard J'Covan Brown.
"Coach was trying to keep that in our minds. And every game, you
know, just play as a team. But we just got away from it."
In the South Region, Baylor won a tournament game for the first
time in six decades, pulling away in the final 2:30 for a 68-59 win
over an upset-minded Sam Houston State squad that had the game tied
inside the final four minutes. The Bears now move on to play 11th
seed Old Dominion, 51-50 upset winners over Notre Dame.
It was Old Dominion's first NCAA tournament win since beating
Villanova in triple overtime in 1995.
"I think it reflects the magic of March, the way the two teams
battled," Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said. "One of the
officials turns to me at the two-minute mark and said, 'It's been a
heck of a game,' and I really think it was."
It might have turned out better for Notre Dame if standout
6-foot-8 senior Luke Harangody had been on top of his game, but
instead he was held scoreless until the final seconds and finished
with four points.
"I played a bad game," Harangody said. "When you don't hit a
shot early and you're coming off the bench, it's just very hard to
get in a rhythm. ... Obviously this is not the way I wanted to go
Instead, the second round welcomes players like Frank Hassell
had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead Old Dominion to victory. To
advance any further, the Monarchs (27-8) will have to figure out a
way to stop Baylor's Ekpe Udoh, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds
to help the Bears (26-7) outlast Sam Houston State. LaceDarius Dunn
also came alive in the second half for Baylor, when he scored 10 of
his 13 points and keyed a crucial 8-0 run with a tough turnaround
fade in the lane and soaring one-handed jam.
In the East region, Kentucky (33-2) is showing no signs of
immaturity despite having three freshmen starters and a fourth
freshman playing a top reserve role. While Bledsoe was hitting shot
after shot from long range, fellow freshman John Wall was running
the point to perfection, finishing with 17 points and 11 assists.
Junior Patrick Patterson, the elder statesman of the Wildcats'
rotation had 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting including a handful of
dunks, and Kentucky hit 15 3s in all.
"Our scouting report said they couldn't make 3s and they made
15," ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. "So, obviously, if the rest of
the tournament they shoot the ball the way they did tonight,
they're obviously going to be a very tough out."
Now Kentucky plays Wake Forest (20-10) which demonstrated an
impressive will to win ugly against Texas. The Demon Deacons
outrebounded the Longhorns 59-34.
"We really got just pounded on the glass," Texas coach Rick
Barnes said. "I can never remember getting outrebounded 59-34."
Still, Texas had an 80-76 lead in the final half-minute of
overtime. Then Ari Stewart hit a 3 with 16 seconds to go to make it
80-79 and Gary Johnson missed a pair of free throws. That allowed
Smith to go end-to-end, capping his 19-point, 12-rebound and
seven-assist outing with a game-winner he'll never forget.
"We're not the prettiest team in the world," Wake Forest coach
Dino Gaudio said. "We don't shoot the ball straight a lot of
times, but our defense was the difference in the basketball game as
was (rebounding). So we live to fight another day."
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister contributed to this report
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)