Saturday, March 17, 2007

Morris leads Kentucky over 'Nova

By Sean Pollard
The Phanatic Magazine

Randolph Morris scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Kentucky held off Villanova, 67-58, in the first round of the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.

Jodie Meeks scored 12 points and Ramel Bradley had 11 for eighth-seeded Wildcats (22-11), who advance to the second round to take on top-seeded Kansas.

Joe Crawford added 10 points as Kentucky notched its 98th NCAA Tournament victory, tops in the nation.

Freshman Scottie Reynolds scored 23 points and Curtis Sumpter had 19 points and eight boards for Villanova (22-11), which advanced to the Elite Eight in last year's tournament.

Down by four at halftime, Will Sheridan and Dante Cunningham opened up the second half with two straight baskets and Reynolds hit 2-of-3 free throws to quickly give Villanova a 34-30 lead.

Kentucky, however, responded as Crawford nailed a jumper and Morris hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 34-33. Morris then earned another trip to the line and made both of his attempts to put Kentucky in front and Bradley added two free throws of his own to make it 37-34.

Sheridan hit a jumper to bring Villanova within 37-36, but that was as close as the ninth-seeded 'Nova would get as Crawford drained a three to spark a 12-3 Kentucky run that made it 49-39 with 8 1/2 minutes to play.

Reynolds' three-point play -- his first basket of the second half -- brought Villanova within five, 59-54, with 2:13 remaining. Mike Nardi then had two open looks at three-pointers that would have made it a one-possession, but the Villanova senior came up empty each time as Kentucky hit its free throws down the stretch to ice the game.

Villanova hit its first four three-point attempts and took a 14-9 lead on Nardi's trey just under six minutes into the first half. Kentucky answered back as Bradley made a layup and then hit a trey to tie the game at 18-18 with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.

Morris followed with a free throw and then made a layup of his own to complete an 8-0 run and give Kentucky a 21-18 lead. A Shane Clark dunk followed by a Reynolds' three and layup put Villanova up 26-23 with just under three minutes remaining, but Kentucky closed the first half out with a 7-2 spurt and took a 30-28 lead into the locker room.

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