LOUISVILLE, Ky. —Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb could have left for the NBA last year. This is why they stayed.
Jones had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Lamb scored 16 and top-seeded Kentucky began its quest for an eighth national title with a staggering display of athleticism in an 81-66 victory over Western Kentucky on Thursday night.
On a day when Syracuse nearly became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a 16, the Wildcats (33-2) clearly relished their growing role as favorites. Freshman and player of the year candidate Anthony Davis added 16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for Kentucky, which was never seriously threatened.
Freshman T.J. Price scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half to help Western Kentucky (16-19) get off to a hot start that briefly silenced the decidedly Kentucky crowd. The Hilltoppers carried an improbable seven-game winning streak into the matchup with the Wildcats.
Jones surprised many when he came back to Kentucky after his freshman year and he’s struggled at times this season with a finger injury and a diminished role because of coach John Calipari’s third No. 1 recruiting class.
IOWA STATE 77, CONNECTICUT 64
Chris Allen led four Cyclones in double figures with 20 points, and Iowa State scored their final 14 at the free throw line night to beat Connecticut.
It’s the first time since UCLA in 1996 that the defending champs have lost in the opening game and only the second time the Huskies have lost their first game of the NCAA Tournament.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun was already on his feet before the final buzzer, walking to congratulate Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg.
The loss is sure to renew questions about the future of Calhoun, who missed a month with back problems and turns 70 in May.
MARQUETTE 88, BRIGHAM YOUNG 68
Jae Crowder finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, Darius Johnson-Odom had 12 of his 20 points in the second half and Marquette withstood another furious Brigham Young University rally for a win.
Brandon Davies had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the 14th-seeded Cougars (26-9), who looked for a brief while as if they might have a chance to top their historic comeback in the First Four on Tuesday night. After trailing by as many as 19 in the first half, BYU got within 52-46 with 15:28 left. But the Golden Eagles (28-5) were simply too big and too strong.
The third-seeded Golden Eagles (26-7) now play sixth-seeded Murray State in the third round Saturday.
MURRAY STATE 58, COLORADO STATE 41
Isaiah Canaan scored 15 points in Murray State’s return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year wait, and Donte Poole added 13 to lead the Racers over Colorado State in the second round.
Canaan mishandled the ball in the closing seconds of a two-point loss to Butler in 2010 as a freshman. He’s the leader of this group now, and Murray State (31-1) expects a long run in this tournament as the mid-major darlings.
Poole scored Murray State’s first eight points early, and the sixth-seeded Racers shook off an 11-day wait with an 18-2 rally to start the second half.
Pierce Hornung led Colorado State (20-12) with 12 points and matched a career-high with 17 rebounds for the 11th-seeded Rams, who were making their first tournament appearance since 2003.