Bledsoe’s eight 3s lead Kentucky in win vs. ETSU

Published 11:57 pm Thursday, March 18, 2010

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — To call this one a yawner would be understating things.

Kentucky’s blowout of East Tennessee State in the first round of the NCAA tournament was so thorough that fans were sleeping in the stands — and not even the collective laughs of conscious spectators could awaken some of those caught snoozing on large video boards.

That’s what happens when a No. 1 seed leads by 30 in the first half and keeps piling on.

At least the Kentucky fans who stayed awake were rewarded with a record performance by Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe’s eight 3-pointers set a new high for a Kentucky player in an NCAA tournament game, and the Wildcats dominated throughout in a 100-71 victory over ETSU on Thursday night in the East Regional.

Scoring 29 points in all, Bledsoe started 8 of 8 on 3s before finally missing his first from long range late in the second half and finishing 8 of 9. Still, he surpassed Tony Delk’s previous school record of seven 3s in the 1996 championship game against Syracuse.

Patrick Patterson scored 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, including a handful of dunks, while John Wall added 17 points and 11 assists for the Wildcats (33-2).

Micah Williams had 18 points for ETSU (20-15), which trailed by as much as 30 in the first half and never threatened in the second.

Justin Tubbs added 16 points and Adam Sollazzo 14 for the Buccaneers, who as a 16th seed last season gave Pittsburgh a first-round scare. ETSU simply could not summon a similar performance against the Southeastern Conference champion Wildcats, who have three freshman starters but brushed off any worries about inexperience in the tournament.

Kentucky hit from all areas of the court, seemingly making a 3 for every slam dunk. Kentucky made 15 3-pointers on 33 attempts. The Wildcats shot 51.7 percent overall (31 of 60).

Meanwhile, Kentucky, which simply had more size, speed and talent than ETSU, held the Bucs to 35.9 percent shooting (23 of 64). The Bucs seemed so rattled they had trouble hitting free throws, missing 16 of their 37 attempts from the foul line.

Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins blocked four shots, and Bledsoe had four steals.

Kentucky started fast and never looked back. The Wildcats had assists on their first seven baskets, four by Wall.

Patterson had 11 points before seven minutes had elapsed, and his breakaway two-handed jam on a long pass from DeAndre Liggins highlighted a 14-0 run that staked the Wildcats to a 23-10 lead.

Williams’ driving floater off the glass ended that run, but it only got worse from there for the Bucs.

Three of Bledsoe’s four first-half 3s followed, and Kentucky threw down a slew of alley-oop dunks. The Wildcats widened their lead to 30 when Ramon Harris’ 3 made it 54-24 with 1:11 to go before halftime.

Kentucky was better from 3-point range in the first half (7 of 14), than ETSU was from the free throw line (2 of 11). The Bucs missed their first eight foul shots before Tommy Hubbard put back the last of those misses as he was fouled and converted the three-point play.

Only moments later, Kentucky was on the attack again with Darnell Dodson finding Daniel Orton for a thunderous alley-oop dunk. Patterson followed with his third dunk of the half on a strong baseline move, and after Hubbard’s jumper on the other end, Orton heaved another alley-oop lob that Patterson skied to grab and throw down.

Kentucky led 54-26 at halftime, meaning ETSU was down by more points than it had scored to that point. By then, it was obvious that youth and inexperience weren’t going to be a problem for Wildcats, not in the first round, anyway.