Stony Brook stayed within two scores of Kentucky for the first 13 minutes of Thursday night’s first-round matchup, but the Wildcats’ overwhelming talent ultimately prevailed and they ran away with the game in the second half en route to an 85–57 win.
The two teams started 7 of 41 from the field, recording more combined blocked shots (8) than made field goals in the first 10-plus minutes. Neither team could buy a shot, especially the Seawolves, who were 3 of 27 from the field to start the game.
As contested jumpers were continuously off the mark, the matchup between Stony Broo’'s Jameel Warney and Kentucky’s frontcourt took center stage. Warney had six points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the first half, while Skal Labissiere, the former five-star recruit who has struggled to find his rhythm this season, was halfway to a triple double before halftime with six points, four rebounds and five blocks.
Warney finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks, but the Seawolves weren’t competitive in any facet of the game besides rebounding. Stony Brook was 20 of 76 from the field as Kentucky blocked an NCAA tournament-record 15 shots. Kentucky’s Jamal Murray took over in the second half, scoring 15 of his team-high 19 points, as all five of the Wildcats’ starters scored in double figures.
Kentucky doubled up Stony Brook early in the second half and sprinted to the finish line, setting up a massive second-round matchup with No. 5 Indiana.
Why it matters
Kentucky knocked off potentially pesky Stony Brook, which made its first NCAA tournament appearance on Thursday, in a game in which the Seawolves, not the Wildcats, entered the game with the most consistent post presence. As the Wildcats’ backcourt got off to a slow start, Labissiere, Alex Poythress and Derek Willis collectively challenged Warney. When Kentucky’s backcourt found its groove, Stony Brook didn’t have an answer and the game was quickly out of reach.
Tom Crean and John Calipari can’t force Indiana and Kentucky to play each other as part of their nonconference schedules, but luckily the NCAA selection committee can. The two decorated programs will meet on Saturday for the first time since the 2012 NCAA tournament. On a day in which three No. 9 seeds, a No. 11 seed and two No. 12 seeds won, Indiana and Kentucky each avoided upsets and puts the blueblood programs on a collison course for Saturday.
The two teams met twice in the 2011–12 season—Indiana beat No. 1 Kentucky in Assembly Hall thanks to Christian Watford’s buzzer beater and Kentucky won the second meeting in the Sweet 16—but the two sides have since been unable to come to terms to renew their annual series.
Kentucky guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray will face Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell in an epic backcourt battle with a Sweet 16 appearance on the line. You won’t want to miss this.