LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Take away the sluggish start and ragged finish, and top-ranked Kentucky opened the NCAA tournament just the way it wanted against 16th-seeded Hampton.
Karl-Anthony Towns, a potential top-three pick in the NBA lottery, bounced back from a mini-slump with 21 points and 11 rebounds, Andrew Harrison added 14 points and the Wildcats rolled to a 79-56 win over the outmanned Pirates on Thursday night in the Midwest Regional.
Getting started took some doing for Kentucky (35-0), which was already resigned to the late tipoff. The Wildcats' wait became even longer as Cincinnati fought to a 66-65 overtime win over Purdue in the preceding game.
"I didn't like how we started the game, I didn't quite like how we finished the game, but it is 1 o'clock at night," said coach John Calipari, who nonetheless called it a good win. "And we had an overtime game where the guys were hanging out in the locker room for an hour and a half, so I'm going to chalk it up to that and move on."
Butler gets shot at Irish
PITTSBURGH - Butler faces off against Notre Dame with a trip to the Sweet 16 at stake Saturday. Separated by three hours and 150 miles of Indiana highway, sixth-seeded Butler (23-10) and the third-seeded Irish (30-5) met regularly from 1908-1994 but have faced off just once in the last 20 years. The teams spend a few hours in the same building every December at an annual doubleheader that also features Indiana and Purdue. Since the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers - Big Ten rivals - can't play each other in that setting, neither can the Bulldogs and the Irish.
"One of the things we wanted to do was compete and beat all these Indiana schools," Butler center Kameron Woods said. "Anytime you play anybody in state, you just want to compete. But we know we're both taking a plane back to Indiana at some point."