- Thursday, March 18 2010 -
NCAA East Regional First Round (at New Orleans, LA)
Kentucky - 100 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Final Rank 2nd by AP and 2nd by ESPN/USA Today]
East Tennessee State - 71 (Head Coach: Murry Bartow) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 54, East Tennessee State 26
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi State 75 - 74 OT|||||Wake Forest 90 - 60|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats rout ETSU in NCAA opener
NEW ORLEANS - A day before Kentucky took the floor in what it hopes will be a long NCAA Tournament run DeMarcus Cousins responded to a question about the Cats' first round opponent by butchering East Tennessee State's name.
It's unlikely the big freshman is likely to remember it in the future either the way UK blitzed the Buccaneers for a 100-71 victory in front of a sparse crowd at the New Orleans Arena. The Cats ripped off a 28-4 first half run to wipe out any ounce of hope East Tennessee State had in becoming the first No. 16 seed to ever oust a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
"Any team can beat you so this is life and death right here," freshman guard John Wall said. "Teams are fighting for their lives so we wanted to come out and punch them right in the mouth. We took their confidence."
The Cats (33-2) used their almost unfair size advantage in the post to dominate the Buccaneers, most it coming from Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton, an unlikely offensive source. By the end of the first half UK was staging its own alley-oop competition to complement the scorching three-point shooting of Eric Bledsoe. The trio combined for 38 points, 12 rebounds and four triples by the break and the Cats made 7-of-14 from beyond the arc for a balanced attack before cruising over the final 20 minutes.
Bledsoe was so dialed into the New Orleans Arena rims even the wandering a mind can do in a blowout didn't cool him off. The 6-foot-1 freshman had a career-high 29 points and set a UK record for most threes in a NCAA Tournament game with eight, breaking the previous mark of seven by Tony Delk in 1996 national championship game against Syracuse.
"He is in that 'E-Bled Zone' and when he's in that it's over," senior forward Ramon Harris said.
Bledsoe wasn't the only one zoned in. Teammates said Wall was the picture of intense focus before the game, so much so they all followed the precocious freshman's lead.
"I'm trying to joke with him and he was zoning me out so I knew he was going to play some ball," freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins said. "This is a big time for John so you all are going to see some big time performances from him. I've never seen him like this, maybe against North Carolina."
"John Wall set the tone in the locker room before the game," sophomore guard DeAndre Liggins added. "We watched how he was and we followed him. You could look at how focused he was and I thought something was wrong with him. He's usually dancing while we're walking to the court but he was focused. It's business. Keep your feet on the pedal."
So complete was UK's dismantling of ETSU it made nine consecutive shots during one first half sequence and had 27 assists on 31 made field goals in the game. By comparison, the Buccaneers shot just 35.9 percent and struggled to string anything positive together on the offensive end.
It was a stellar tournament debut for Patterson, who had openly talked about how much it meant to him to finally earn a shot at playing on college basketball's biggest stage. The 6-foot-9 junior forward had 11 points in the first seven minutes on his way to 22 for the game and was nearly perfect (9-of-10 field goals) from the floor.
Combine all of those individual efforts and the Cats were easily the most impressive team in the draw on the first day of the tournament.
"East Tennessee State hit a buzzsaw," UK coach John Calipari said. "Hopefully we're this good. I'm not sure if we are but we'll see if we can keep it going."
John Wall (#11) and Daniel Orton (#33) fight ETSU's Justin Tubbs (#3) for a rebound
DeMarcus Cousins and Micah Williams grab for the ball
Eric Bledsoe tries to break between ETSU's Micah Williams (#30) and Justin Tubbs (#3)