In a second round matchup between two of the more lethal offensive teams in this year's NCAA Tournament, No. 2 seed Kentucky punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 over No. 7 seed Wofford in what turned out to be a grueling defensive battle.
The Wildcats limited the Terriers to 37.5 percent shooting from the floor and 29.6 percent from 3-point range en route to the Terriers' second-lowest scoring output all season in a 62-56 win. Kentucky's blueprint appeared to be to completely take Wofford star Fletcher Magee, who scored 24 points in the first round, out of the game. The game plan proved fruitful: Magee scored just 8 points and missed all 12 of his 3-point attempts, including three in the final four minutes.
"Ashton [Hagans], Tyler [Herro], Jemarl [Baker], their energy was unbelievable," John Calipari said on CBS of the backcourt's efforts to limit Magee, the NCAA's all-time leader in made 3-point shots. "This is a hard team to play. [Wofford] never goes away."
On Saturday, it was Kentucky that did not go away. Wofford led nearly 19 minutes of game time, which thrust mild adversity on the young Wildcats. But they did not flinch, matching Wofford's defensive intensity with their own and going punch for punch on offense without PJ Washington, UK's leading scorer and rebounder.
Kentucky fans can now breathe a sigh of relief. Wofford was a challenging matchup for Kentucky, a team that struggled to defend the 3-point shot at times this season. It will have a few days off to rest and recover, and most importantly, to potentially work the injured Washington back in time for the Sweet 16.
If Washington is unable to give it a go, Kentucky may be stretched offensively. In the first round, Keldon Johnson scored 24 points as the go-to guy on offense. But Saturday it was a tag team between Reid Travis, Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro, none of which scored more than 15 points in the win.
Focus will now turn to Tulsa to see who the Wildcats will face between the winner of Ohio State and Houston in the Sweet 16 of the Midwest Regionals next week. Until then, all eyes in Lexington will be on just if -- or when -- Washington's sprained foot is healthy enough to return to action.