ST. LOUIS — It was not the most stylish victory, but Kentucky won this battle of Wildcats on Friday night and now takes aim at college basketball’s only unbeaten team.
Forward Julius Randle supplied an 19-point, 15-rebound double-double and guard Aaron Harrison scored 17 points as No. 8 Kentucky bounced No. 9 Kansas State 56-49 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region.
Kentucky (25-10) will meet top-seeded and 35-0 Wichita State on Sunday in the third round at what should be a packed Scottrade Center. The winner books a trip to Indianapolis for a regional semifinal on March 28 against Saint Louis or Louisville.
Freshman guard Marcus Foster led Kansas State (20-13) with 15 points, reserve forward Shane Southwell scored 11 points and forward Thomas Gipson added 10. Foster hit just 7 of 18 shots from the field, indicative of the struggles Kansas State had to score.
With Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein rejecting four shots and altering a spate of others, Kansas State connected on just 19-of-53 from the field, including a miserable 5-of-21 on 3-pointers. It was also outrebounded 40-28.
Kansas State fell behind before the opening tip when reserve forward Brian Rohleder drew a technical foul for dunking in warm-ups. Players are not allowed to dunk once the clock reaches 20 minutes and Rohleder did so at 19:58.
Guard Andrew Harrison made one of the two technical free throws, although it took Kentucky about eight minutes to grab the lead for good. Aaron Harrison capped an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer with 12:05 left for a 13-8 lead.
Kentucky led 29-23 at halftime and saw the margin dwindle to 35-33 on a 3-pointer by Southwell with 15:05 left. But Kentucky scored seven straight points, with Randle hitting a leaner in the lane, to make it 42-33 at the 12-minute mark.
Kansas State never got the game closer than six points after that.
NOTES: Kansas State’s senior class of G Omari Lawrence, F Ryan Schultz, G Shane Southwell and G Will Spradling is just the third class in school history to reach four straight NCAA Tournaments. … Kentucky is making its 53rd NCAA Tournament appearance and boasts a 111-46 record in the event. … Kansas State entered Friday night’s game with a 5-10 record in road- and neutral-site games. … Kentucky averages 15.9 second-chance points per game, tops among all BCS-level teams.
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