CRAWFORD | Kentucky blocks Stony Brook 85-57, sets up Indiana sh - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Kentucky blocks Stony Brook 85-57, sets up Indiana showdown in NCAA

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DES MOINES, Iowa (WDRB) — I haven’t seen a team miss this much since, well, the Storm Troopers in every Star Wars movie.

The University of Kentucky basketball team drew a Stony Brook team playing in the first NCAA Tournament game in its program’s history, and they brought the butterflies to prove it.

The Seawolves shot airballs in the lane. They shot them from three-point range and midrange. If they’d been at a county fair, the big stuffed animals would’ve been safe.

And so was Kentucky. The Wildcats cruised to an 85-57 victory and a second-round matchup with rival Indiana on Saturday. But a couple of things shouldn’t be overlooked.

One, the Kentucky defense had a lot to do with Stony Brook’s struggles. And two, the stagnant Kentucky offense in the first half gave way to the Wildcats’ lethally efficient attack in the second.

The Seawolves shot nearly 48 percent on the season. Their leading scorer, Jameel Warney, shot 63.7 percent on the season, and ranked ninth in the nation that category.

In the first half Thursday night, Warney was 3-for-10. (He did finish with 23 points and 15 rebounds, and shot 10-21 from the field.

And Stony Brick — I’m sorry, Stony Brook — was 7 for 37. That included an 8 1/2-minute stretch in which it missed 15 shots in a row and 17 out of 18.

Here’s the stat: Stony Brick — I’m sorry, Stony Brook — missed 21 shots in the first 10:39 of its game against Kentucky. Indiana, in its 99-74 demolition of Chattanooga, missed only 20 shots in THE WHOLE GAME. More on the Hoosiers in a bit.

When the Seawolves weren't missing shots, Kentucky was blocking them. Kentucky broke the NCAA Tournament single-game record for blocked shots with 15. The 1998 NCAA champions had 14 in a tournament game. Skal Labissiere led the Wildcat block party with six of them.

"First games are always hard in this tournament," UK coach John Calipari said. "We were a little shaky offensively in the first half, but we were good enough defensively to get through. . . . We just needed to make a couple of shots. 

Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis applied ball pressure. Jamal Murray had active hands. Alex Poythress locked down whoever he was on and switched over to help on Warney in double-teams. The Wildcats didn’t do much special defensively outside of the double-team on Warney. They just switched everything, and contested every shot. Isaiah Briscoe remained an unsung hero.

Stony Brook never felt comfortable. The Seawolves rushed shots. They hurried their offense.

During timeouts, coach Steve Pikiell pleaded with his team to calm down and not worry about the missed shots. But that’s a tough psychological burden to bear.

After hanging close early, they went down 15 late in the first half and Kentucky’s defense tasted blood.

Some of it might’ve been supplied by coach John Calipari, who was aggravated with his team’s first-half offensive execution.

Give Stony Brook’s defense some credit for that. The Seawolves obviously had a plan to deal with the Wildcats. Jamal Murray was 1-9 in the first half. Tyler Ulis was 2-6.

Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work so well in in the second half. Murray made his first five shots of the half, in the first nine minutes of the half, and wound up finishing with 19 points. He also made a three for the 35th straight game, breaking Tony Delk’s old school record.

Ulis fed Murray for a three for the assist that broke John Wall’s single-season record. He wound up with 10 points and 7 assists. And Briscoe just did what the team needed. He wound up with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He played dogged defense. He made free throws (3 for 3). Alex Poythress and Skal Labissiere had 12 points each.

In the second half, UK shot 75.9 percent (22 of 29) and went 4 of 6 from three-point range.

The Wildcats led by 19 points several minutes into the second half. That was 30 a few minutes later.

And the way they played offense will leave people talking about a matchup of two of the nation’s most efficient offenses — instead of about a Kentucky team that struggled from the field in the first half against Stony Brook.

UK advances, and on Saturday, the Wildcats will encounter a team that can score in bunches, and showed that ability off on Thursday night.

The storylines are rich: Ulis vs. Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell. Indiana’s shooters vs. Kentucky’s defense. Indiana’s desire to run vs. Kentucky’s preference for a slower pace. 

In Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency ratings, Kentucky is No. 1 in the nation. Indiana is No. 4. The winner might get a chance to play No. 6 North Carolina.

This is an Elite Eight matchup. Unfortunately, it’s happening in the round of 32.

But with the teams not having met since 2012, we’ll take it when we can get it.

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