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.
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