The Wildcats continue to grow right before our eyes. They’ve shown flashes of brilliance all season long, but the Wichita State Shockers provided them one of their toughest tests of the season in the Round of 32. The Wildcats’ responded by playing up to their potential in nearly every aspect while fending off Fred VanVleet’s three as time expired to secure a spot in the Sweet 16 with a 78-76 win. The Wildcats were able to outrebound the Shockers by nine; they also got one of the best joint performances from the Harrison Twins, who scored a combined 39 points to lead the way. Julius Randle was once again phenomenal as well, going for 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. As a team the Wildcats’ made 8-18 from the three point line, 16-22 from the free throw line and took good care of the basketball, turning it over only 11 times. Now they will take on their in-state rivals, the Louisville Cardinals, who they defeated back on December 28 73-66. James Young was the star of that game, gong for 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, meanwhile Russ Smith needed 20 shots and 10 free throws to score 19 points. As long as the Wildcats can keep him contained and win the battle of the boards again, there’s no reason why they can’t march on to the Elite Eight.
Luke Hancock picked up where he left off against Manhattan, scoring a game-high 21 points as the Cardinals easily eliminated Saint Louis 66-51. Their defense held the Billikens without a three and forced 18 turnovers. They were loose with the basketball themselves, though, giving it away 19 times. The three point shot was definitely a difference maker as they were able to connect on six to their zero, four of which came from Hancock. Montrezl Harrell posted his second double-double in as many games, going for 10 points and 11 rebounds as the Cardinals won the battle of the boards by seven. Rebounding is going to be key in the Sweet 16 against the big and physical Kentucky Wildcats, a team that outrebounded them by eight despite the fact that they still had Chane Behanan at the time. In that ballgame neither team could buy a free throw, so look for that to be an important factor, especially if it’s a close contest late. Without taking better care of the basketball and outplaying the Wildcats on the perimeter, the Cardinals’ quest to defend their title will not continue.
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