- Saturday, March 20 2010 -
NCAA East Regional Second Round (at New Orleans, LA)
Kentucky - 90 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Final Rank 2nd by AP and 2nd by ESPN/USA Today]
Wake Forest - 60 (Head Coach: Dino Gaudio) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 44, Wake Forest 28
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|East Tennessee State 100 - 71|||||Cornell 62 - 45|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats leave Deacons in their Wake
NEW ORLEANS - Darius Miller arrived in Kentucky's locker room after the game and was immediately cornered by Patrick Patterson. The meeting was direct and to the point.
"We came back in the locker room and I was like, 'Who are you? Are you Darius?'" Patterson said. "He just started laughing. I told him, 'Whoever you are, I want to see you every night.' For him to play like that, he can do so much for this team.
"I don't know who talked to him before the game, what he ate, what he did but I hope he does it all before the next game too."
For a night in the Big Easy Miller made everything look as simple as the city's nickname, setting a career-high with 20 points in Kentucky's 90-60 annihilation of Wake Forest in front of 11,966 fans at New Orleans Arena.
Miller set the tone for the Cats (34-2) by attacking the Demon Deacons' defense in the opening minutes of the game, then his teammates joined in to put another NCAA Tournament punishment on Wake Forest, just as they did in 1993 and the 1996 national championship season.
"Darius, the way he played at the beginning was the spark for us," freshman guard John Wall said. "We tell him if he'd play that way at the beginning and just play he could change the game for us. They didn't have anyone who could guard him."
The soft-spoken sophomore from Maysville, Ky. was anything but the confidence-challenged kid he can sometimes revert back to, repeatedly slashing through the Demon Deacons' defense before flicking tissue-soft floaters through the net. Having scored just 10 points through the Cats' first four postseason games he matched that nearly matched that total in the first 5:15 of the contest. Afterward, Miller credited the performance to an inspirational tactic used by coach John Calipari.
"I just tried to play aggressive," Miller said. "Coach has been talking about everyone envisioning the best they can be. I was just trying to envision the best I've played. Coach has had us watch highlights of ourselves they made for us and I think that helped get my mindset right."
While Miller was dissecting the Wake defense the Cats also benefited greatly from the first half foul trouble of Demon Deacons' star Al-Farouq Aminu, who sat the final 11:50 of the half after picking up his third foul going for a defensive rebound. The game was tied at 19 when he went to the bench and UK took advantage of Aminu's absence by outscoring the Demon Deacons 25-9 the rest of the way. Even Aminu's return at the outset of the second half was to no avail, as UK made its first 10 field goal attempts after the break to turn a 16-point halftime edge into a 30-point massacre.
"To be honest I didn't even know he had three fouls," freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins said of Aminu. "I was like, 'Wow, why did they keep him in that long?'"
Wake Forest spent the day between its overtime victory over Texas and showdown with UK proclaiming it wouldn't be intimidated by the top-seeded Cats, saying the competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference had them prepared for what UK would bring to the table.
The bravado/mind games continued when Wake center Chas McFarland - a known agitator in ACC circles - attempted to get under UK freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins' skin by waiting at center court for the pregame handshake then turning his back and walking away as Cousins approached. In the second half, McFarland was whistled for a flagrant foul on Cousins, to which the Cats' big freshman got up smiling, clapped and motioned to the UK faithful to make noise.
It was a fitting moment for a team that appears to be getting better by the game.
"We can still get better," Cousins said. "I want to see how good we can actually get because I don't know how good we can be."
John Wall (#11) floats in with a left hand
Perry Stevenson (#21) blocks a shot by Wake's Chas McFarland (#13)
DeMarcus Cousins is triple-teamed but still dominates inside