Kentucky survived a tough opening test to earn a 78-73 victory over No. 12 Davidson in the first round of the men's NCAA tournament.
The No. 5 seed struggled to pull away from its red-hot opponent, but it closed out the win Thursday in Boise, Idaho, behind 25 points from Kevin Knox. The Wildcats didn't make a single three-pointer in the game (0-of-6) but found a way to advance.
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports noted the rarity of the lack of outside shooting:
Knox was the best player on the offensive floor, although Shai Gilgeous-Alexander provided plenty of help despite a poor shooting day. The freshman filled up the box score with 19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
The all-around effort helped key a quality overall performance on both ends from the SEC tournament champs.
While a tough draw is still ahead in the South Regional, Kentucky passed its first test and avoided what could have been its first opening-round loss since 2008.
Davidson was one of the final teams into the field after a surprise win in Atlantic 10 tournament, but the great offense we had seen in the past wasn't there for most of this game. The underdogs shot just 29.4 percent from the field in the first half, including 3-of-15 from three-point range as Kentucky's length affected their shots.
Of course, head coach John Calipari wasn't satisfied, as John Gasaway of ESPN.com noted:
On the other end of the court, Kentucky held a lead thanks to its pure athleticism inside:
Davidson caught fire in the second half to keep things interesting, slowly creeping up the scoreboard before finally tying things up at 52-52 with nine minutes remaining.
Though Davidson stayed close at 61-59, Kentucky used a late 9-0 run to pull away.
A big jump shot from Knox helped secure the hard-fought victory:
Davidson's top two scorers during the season, Peyton Aldridge and Kellan Grady, finished just 8-of-31 combined from the field. Jon Axel Gudmundsson was the only reliable offensive option with six made three-pointers, but it wasn't enough to carry the load for the lower-seeded team.
Meanwhile, Kentucky found a way to pound the ball inside and prove it has the talent to make a run at a title.
The Wildcats will now take on the winner of No. 4 Arizona and No. 13 Buffalo in the South Regional's second round on Saturday.