New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Eric Bledsoe scored a career-high 29 to go with four steals, and the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats blew out the East Tennessee State Buccaneeers, 100-71, in a first-round matchup of the NCAA Tournament.
Bledsoe went an incredible 8-of-9 from three-point range for the Wildcats (33-2), who will next take on the winner of Texas/Wake Forest on Saturday in an East Region matchup. Patrick Patterson went 9-of-10 from the field for 22 points, while John Wall posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 assists in the lopsided victory.
UK, appearing in this tourney for the 50th time, is beginning its road toward an eighth national championship, with its last coming in 1998 under now- Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith. With one more win, the Wildcats can secure their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005.
Micah Williams scored 19 to lead the Buccaneers (20-15), who captured their second straight Atlantic Sun championship in 2009-10. Justin Tubbs added 15 points, while Adam Sollazzo contributed with 14 in defeat.
East Tennessee State held a 10-9 lead after a Tubbs three-pointer in the early minutes, but Kentucky took over the game from there and never looked back. The Wildcats responded with the next 14 points -- seven from Patterson -- and a Wall jumper made it 23-10 with 13 minutes left.
Bledsoe later capped a 10-0 burst with eight straight points on three shots, drilling a three-pointer for a commanding 37-14 margin with 7 1/2 minutes to play in the opening half. UK held a dominant 54-26 advantage at halftime.
A Patterson three a little more than five minutes into the second half expanded the Kentucky lead to 40, 77-37, and the Wildcats cruised to the finish line.
Kentucky has taken each of the three all-time meetings with ETSU...UK garnered its 10th top seed in the NCAA Tournament...The Wildcats need only one more win in the tourney to reach 100 NCAA Tournament victories...Isiah Brown had 11 points for the Buccaneers, who shot 35.9 percent and 4-of-17 from three-point range...UK shot 51.7 percent overall and 15-of-33 from beyond the arc.