March 22, 2019 / 1:35 AM / 6 months ago

No. 2 Kentucky crushes Abilene Christian

Freshman guard Keldon Johnson poured in 25 points in his first NCAA Tournament game, and second-seeded Kentucky pounded 15th-seeded Abilene Christian 79-44 in a Midwest Region game Thursday night at Jacksonville, Fla.

Mar 21, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Abilene Christian Wildcats forward Jaren Lewis (1) shoots the ball in front of Kentucky Wildcats guard Ashton Hagans (2) and Kentucky Wildcats forward Reid Travis (22) during the second half in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky played without team scoring and rebounding leader PJ Washington, a 6-foot-8 sophomore who had his left foot in a cast from an injury sustained in last week’s Southeastern Conference tournament.

Johnson made 10 of 16 shots from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

Kentucky’s Reid Travis, a graduate transfer from Stanford in his first NCAA Tournament game, racked up 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, and freshman Tyler Herro added 14 points.

Kentucky (28-6) plays in the second round Saturday against the Seton Hall-Wofford winner. Kentucky has won its NCAA Tournament opener in 25 of its past 26 appearances in the event.

These were two teams using the same nickname, but there was a big difference between the groups of Wildcats.

The first NCAA Tournament appearance for Abilene Christian (27-7) didn’t go well. The team that made 38.8 percent of its 3-point attempts entering the tournament had a tough time finding a shooting stroke Thursday, going 5 of 23, 21.7 percent, from long range.

Jaren Lewis scored 17 points for Abilene Christian. Lewis shot 7 of 12 from the field, while the rest of his teammates were a combined 10 of 41. Lewis also had five of the team’s 17 rebounds.

Kentucky opened a 13-3 lead in less than six minutes, then scored the final 11 points of the half for a 39-13 lead at the break.

Abilene Christian, which qualified by winning the Southland Conference tournament, didn’t have a field goal in the final 5:49 of the opening half. It made 19.1 percent of its shots in the first half.

Kentucky hit at 60 percent from the field in the first half and held a 23-10 rebounding advantage at the game’s midway mark.

—Field Level Media

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