NCAA hoops: Top-seeded Kentucky routs Wake Forest 90-60
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS — Two games, two blowouts.
John Calipari's top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats are young and inexperienced, but no longer unproven in the NCAA tournament, during which their average margin of victory now stands at 29.5 points after two rounds.
Darius Miller scored a career-high 20 points and Kentucky made easy work of No. 9 Wake Forest during a 90-60 rout in their second-round meeting Saturday night.
Miller scored 16 points in the first half to help the Wildcats (34-2) build an early double-digit lead that ballooned to 31 in the second half.
DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points for Kentucky, while John Wall scored 14 and Eric Bledsoe 13.
Al-Farouq Aminu had 16 points for Wake Forest (20-11), which was down by 16 at halftime and never mounted a credible comeback attempt during the final 20 minutes. C.J. Harris added 11 points for the Demon Deacons.
Kentucky moves on to the East Regional semifinals in Syracuse, N.Y., where they'll play the winner of Sunday's second-round game between 12th-seeded Cornell and No. 4 Wisconsin.
In their first-round game, Kentucky built a 40-point lead while cruising to a 100-71 victory over Atlantic Sun Conference champion East Tennessee State. The Wildcats seemed only marginally more challenged by their second-round opponent from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Wake Forest, which needed overtime to squeeze out a dramatic 81-80 win over Texas, looked worn down and outmanned as the Wildcats pounded their way inside for one easy basket after another. Kentucky scored 52 points in the paint and shot 60 percent. The Wildcats even outrebounded Wake Forest 42-34, a surprising statistic given that Wake Forest had outrebounded the Longhorns by 25 in the first round.
Sitting two rows behind the Kentucky bench, actress Ashley Judd was jubilant, happily posing for a photo with four students who had painted their chests white and blue, spelling out "CATS" when they stood side-by-side. In a New Orleans Arena suite across from the Wake Forest bench, former Demon Deacons standout and current New Orleans Hornets All-Star Chris Paul sat, subdued, with family and friends.
Longtime Wake Forest fans had seen this all before. These teams had met four previous times, and Kentucky had won each time by 20 or more, the last two in the NCAA tournament.
Wake Forest scored the first six points of the game and it appeared early on that the Demon Deacons might be able to stay with the explosive Wildcats.
The score was tied at 19 after Harris' 3-pointer, then Kentucky seemed to stomp on the proverbial accelerator, starting with a 7-0 run capped by Cousins' dunk. Another dunk by Cousins capped an 8-0 run to close the first half, sending the Wildcats into the locker room with a 44-28 lead.
Wall opened the second half with a 3, igniting a 16-5 run that included Bledsoe's 3 and Patrick Patterson's alley-oop jam on a feed from Miller, making it 60-33.
Bledsoe's soaring one-handed jam and end-to-end layup highlighted a quick 6-0 spurt that pushed the lead to 68-37 with 12:41 to go.
From then on, the New Orleans Arena crowd, dominated by Kentucky blue, continued to roar with every Kentucky highlight, and a Bourbon Street block party seemed certain to follow.