St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - The NCAA Tournament rolls on with a round of 32 matchup in St. Louis featuring the eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats taking on the top-seeded Wichita State Shockers in a Midwest Region battle at Scottrade Center.
The winner of this contest will advance to the Sweet 16 and will play the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals next Friday.
Kentucky had a second-round matchup against a tough defensive-minded Kansas State team this past Friday, but the Wildcats made sure their defense was just as good. Kentucky held Kansas State to 49 points in a 56-49 victory.
Wichita State had no issues taking care of the Cal Poly Mustangs on Friday. The unbeaten Shockers ran to a quick double-digit lead and never let up, and defeated the Mustangs, 64-37, to advance and become the first 35-0 team in NCAA history.
This contest between Kentucky and Wichita State will represent the first time these teams have met on the court in their program histories.
Kansas State had a lot of trouble getting its offense going in the first half, as the Wildcats connected on just 33.3 percent of their shots in the frame against Kentucky, including 0-of-7 from 3-point distance. Kentucky took a 29-23 lead into the intermission, which was enough to hang on for the eventual win. Freshman star Julius Randle came up big to help his young Wildcats. Randle scored a team-high 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for the double-double. Aaron Harrison netted 18 points to help Kentucky shake off Kansas State.
Randle leads the youthful Kentucky lineup in scoring this season with a 15.1 ppg average, also contributing a team-best in rebounds with 10.7 boards per outing. James Young is second on the squad in scoring, tallying 14.3 ppg, with Aaron Harrison next at 13.9 ppg and Andrew Harrison fourth with 10.7 ppg. Willie Cauley-Stein has blocked an incredible 105 shots this season, and Andrew Harrison tops the team with 134 assists. Kentucky's scoring defense allows just 66.1 ppg to opponents.
Cal Poly opened the game against Wichita State with a 3-0 lead over the Shockers, but that was the only time the Mustangs would enjoy the advantage in the game. Wichita State, with five minutes to play in the first half, held a 30-8 lead that only continued to grow. Cleanthony Early was the only Shocker to score a double-digit point total in the contest, as the forward netted 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor, adding seven rebounds to his stat line. The Shockers' tough-as-nails defense held Cal Poly to 20.7 percent shooting in the game, and didn't allow a single player to score in double figures.
Early added on to his already team-leading scoring average with the 23-point outburst. Early tops the Shockers with a 16 ppg mark on 47.6 percent shooting, and leads the team in rebounding at 5.9 boards per game. Ron Baker scores an average of 12.9 ppg, followed by Fred VanVleet at 11.8 ppg, and then Tekele Cotton at 10.5 ppg. VanVleet leads the Shockers with 187 assists on the year, and adds 67 steals to his resume. Wichita State will need another strong defensive performance against Kentucky, and will try to utilize its 58.9 ppg scoring defense in the contest.