For more on these teams, visit our Kentucky blog at A Sea of Blue and our Wake Forest blog at Blogger So Dear.
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Darius Miller led a balanced scoring attack with a career-high 20 points and nine rebounds, and top-seeded Kentucky walloped Wake Forest, 90-60, to move on to its first Sweet 16 since 2005.
Miller, who scored 16 in the first half, went 7-of-9 from the field for the Wildcats (34-2), who avoided the upset bug on a day full of them by shooting a robust 60.3 percent from the field. Kentucky will next take on either Wisconsin or Cornell in the East Regional Semifinals after winning an NCAA Tournament game for the 100th time in its storied history.
"We're still a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Our second NCAA Tournament game. They've never played in any other games. The guys that we're playing have never played in it," said UK head coach John Calipari. "So all we're going to worry about is us. We're going to get home, take a day off tomorrow. Practice on Monday and Tuesday, and head on up to Syracuse, and get ready."
DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky, which became the de facto top seed remaining in the tournament after top-ranked Kansas was shocked by ninth-seeded Northern Iowa, 69-67, earlier on Saturday. A total of three lower-seeded teams won on Saturday, but UK made sure it wouldn't suffer the same fate it did when it earned its last top seed; the Wildcats were a top seed in 2004 but lost to UAB in the second round.
"We weren't allowed to know what was the results of (the Kansas-Northern Iowa game), Cousins said, explaining that Calipari forced them to turn off the televisions in the locker room. "We were told to focus on our own game."
John Wall added 14 points and seven assists in the convincing victory, while Eric Bledsoe, coming off a record performance in which he converted eight three-pointers, contributed with 13.
Al-Farouq Aminu battled foul trouble from the start and finished with 16 points to lead ninth-seeded Wake Forest (20-11), which had earned a comeback 81-80 overtime victory over Texas in the first round. C.J. Harris had 11 points in the defeat, as the Demon Deacons were limited to 32.8 percent shooting from the field.
"I told our kids after the game I'm really proud of them the year that they had," said Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio. "No one expected them to be where they are. I think we were picked six or seventh preseason. We lost two underclassmen early to the draft. But our seniors did a great job this year. I'm really, really proud of them. What they've accomplished this season despite the losses that we incurred."
Wake Forest looked solid early on, grabbing a 10-5 lead, but Aminu was whistled for two fouls in the first four minutes, prompting a 7-0 UK run that put the Wildcats in front on a Miller three.
Aminu returned shortly and helped the Demon Deacons keep it close, and a Harris three had Wake Forest even, 19-19, eight minutes into the game.
Just seconds after the shot, though, Aminu was whistled for his third foul, forcing him out for the remainder of the half. A 17-5 Kentucky burst ensued, taking all the momentum from the Deacons.
Wall had six points during the run and finished it with a layup for a 36-24 lead with 4 1/2 minutes to go. The Wildcats then scored the final eight points of the half to take a commanding 44-28 cushion into halftime.
Kentucky picked up right where it left off in the second half, scoring on each of its first seven possessions. The Wildcats outscored Wake Forest, 16-5, during the spurt, which ended with a 60-33 advantage on a Daniel Orton layup four minutes in.
The outcome was never in doubt down the stretch.
Kentucky has won each of the five meetings with Wake Forest; the teams had not met since 1996...The Wildcats became the second team in history to reach 100 NCAA Tournament wins (North Carolina)...Wake Forest is now 28-22 all-time in the NCAA tourney...Kentucky went 7-of-17 from the free throw line, including a 1-for-7 effort from Cousins...Aminu had eight rebounds.