Men's Basketball

Kentucky tops Davidson in Boise, even while an incredible 30-year streak ends

Kentucky’s Sacha Killeya-Jones advances Wildcats after win in Boise

Kentucky sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones "advances" his team on the bracket after beating Davidson at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018.
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Kentucky sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones "advances" his team on the bracket after beating Davidson at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018.

First, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari is happy to be staying in Boise because his team won.

Secondarily, he again gets to visit his newfound favorite donut shop — DK Donuts.

“I’ll probably go tomorrow,” he said after Thursday’s 78-73 win over Davidson.

Calipari professed his love for DK Donuts on Wednesday, and on Thursday morning tweeted a photo from the State Street institution. Freshman forward Kevin Knox clearly didn’t get to check out the local pastry scene.

“Idaho, there’s not much to do here, but I’m enjoying it, first time to be in this state,” Knox said. “I’m here to play basketball.”

No. 5 Kentucky (25-10) definitely deserved a treat after withstanding a tough No. 12 Davidson (21-12) team, doing what it does best, playing good basketball at Taco Bell Arena in a South Region first-round matchup.

The Wildcats in the blue and white controlled the paint, while the Wildcats in the red and white couldn’t find enough 3-pointers to fall. Coming into the game, Davidson was No. 2 among NCAA Tournament teams with 10.7 made 3-pointers per game. The Wildcats made 11 on 33 attempts, but missed seven in a row after tying it at 52-52 with 9:05 left, a drought during which Kentucky built up a 10-point lead.

Calipari said he noticed a lot of similarities between Tennessee, which his Wildcats beat in the SEC championship, and Davidson coach Bob McKillop’s squad.

“(Tennessee coach) Rick Barnes and Bobby are really good friends, so a lot of stuff that Tennessee runs is similar to what we faced today. So we had an advantage,” Calipari said.

McKillop pointed out that he wanted to keep Kentucky away from the 3-point line, and his team succeeded, as Knox and company were 0-for-6 from long distance.

Winning an NCAA Tournament game without a 3-pointer is impressive, but even more so is that Kentucky hadn’t gone a game without making at least one in its last 1,047 contests dating back to Nov. 26, 1988. That was two years after the 3-point line was universally implemented by the NCAA.

The 59-year-old Calipari joked that “I was 9 years old then.”

“The point of emphasis was on a couple of their shooters, but not to the point of not being connected,” McKillop said. “And I thought we had such a sense of urgency about covering their shooters that we didn’t stay connected on penetration.”

McKillop felt there may have been too much overexertion at times trying to catch up, and as a result Kentucky shot 32 free throws, making 26. The Wildcats also had a 36-28 rebounding edge.

Kentucky, led by 25 points from Knox, only trailed for a minute in the first half, but Davidson withstood all that was thrown at it. Calipari called his team’s second-half defense “shaky” as the Wildcats were tied 54-54 with 7:41 to play. Davidson made nine of its first 12 shots in the second half before the ill-timed deep freeze, making two of the next 11.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the SEC Tournament MVP, had 19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals for Kentucky. Sacha Killeya-Jones added eight points and six rebounds off the bench. Jon Axel Gudmundsson led four Davidson scorers in double figures with 21 points.

Next up for Kentucky is a matchup with the No. 13 Buffalo on Saturday, against another team that can dial it up from long distance.

“I told them in this tournament you enjoy wins, but you still need to learn that if we played the way we played in the second half, it’s been a heck of a year, but you’re not advancing, doesn’t matter who you play,” Calipari said.