PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- This year, it's Kentucky's turn to stick
around the NCAA Tournament and send UAB to an early ride home.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats earned a small dose of revenge for
two of their most torturous tourney losses of the past 25 years,
getting a career-high 25 points from Bobby Perry to beat UAB 69-64
on Friday night.
"We're just elated to get this win and we're moving on,"
Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said.
Perry scored 19 of his points in the second half, nine straight
early in the half, and made all 10 of his free-throw attempts.
Perry had little help offensively, with no other Wildcats player in
double figures. But they needed little more with Perry having the
game of his career.
"I think we came out focused even though we didn't play the
best game," Perry said.
Kentucky (22-12) will play top-seeded Connecticut (28-3) Sunday
in the second round of the Washington Regional. It'll be the first
meeting of the two college basketball superpowers.
"I don't know how through all the years our paths have not
crossed," Smith said.
Two years ago, the ninth-seeded Blazers stunned the No. 1
Wildcats 76-75 in the second round of the St. Louis Regional and
advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1982. UAB also
beat Kentucky in the second round of the 1981 tournament -- a nice
chunk of its nine career tourney win total.
Paul Delaney led UAB (24-7) with 13 points. Marvett McDonald
added 10 points, and Squeaky Johnson had seven assists. Kentucky
only turned the ball over eight times against a Blazers defense
that forced 21.2 a game this season.
"We couldn't get them to go up and down as much as we wanted,"
Johnson said. "The key was to get turnovers and we weren't able to
Neither team could build much of a lead. With Kentucky seemingly
safe in the final minute, McDonald hit a 3-pointer with 19.2
seconds left to make it 67-64.
Rajon Rondo, a 57 percent free-throw shooter, missed one of two
free throws. McDonald fired away from the top of the 3-point arc
and missed. The Wildcats grabbed the rebound -- a huge difference in
this one as they had a 47-38 edge on the boards -- and finally the
game was theirs. Rondo had 10 rebounds for Kentucky.
"We ran out of time and that's my fault," UAB coach Mike
Anderson said. "I'll take the blame for this loss. I told them
I've lost seven games this year, they've won 24."
The other eye-popping number came at the line. Led by Perry's
perfect effort, Kentucky went 26-for-30. UAB only 9-for-17. Both
teams were awful from 3-point range also, with each making only
five and Kentucky (25) taking one more attempt.
"If we make shots and free throws, it's a different game,"
The win made the Wildcats 3-0 in Philadelphia -- yup, the
similarly nicknamed Arizona and Villanova also won its first-round
"It wasn't a pretty game, but it's not about how pretty you
look, it's about surviving and winning," forward Randolph Morris
Playing across the street from the Spectrum, where Kentucky lost
perhaps the greatest college basketball game ever played to Duke in
the 1992 regional final, the Wildcats trailed by three at halftime
and fretted over making another early trip back to their old
Perry got rolling early, though. His ninth straight point gave
the Wildcats a 41-37 lead. He snapped a tie game with a 3-pointer
to make it 50-47, then hit another that made it 61-56 with 5:23
"We needed a leader to step up, and he stepped up big for us,"
The five-point cushion was exactly what the Wildcats needed to
hold on an advance to the second round.