PHILADELPHIA (AP)—This year, it was Kentucky delivering the early round NCAA tournament exit to UAB.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats earned a small dose of revenge for two of their most torturous tourney losses of the past 25 years, getting a career-high 25 points from Bobby Perry to beat UAB 69-64 on Friday night.
Perry scored 19 of his points in the second half, nine straight early in the half, and made all 10 of his free-throw attempts. Perry had little help offensively, with no other Wildcats player in double figures. But they needed little more with Perry having the game of his career.
Kentucky (22-12) will play top-seeded Connecticut (28-3) Sunday in the second round of the Washington Regional.
Two years ago, the ninth-seeded Blazers stunned the No. 1 Wildcats 76-75 in the second round of the St. Louis Regional and advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1982. UAB also beat Kentucky in the second round of the 1981 tournament—a nice chunk of its nine career tourney win total.
Paul Delaney led UAB (24-7) with 13 points. Marvett McDonald added 10 points, and Squeaky Johnson had seven assists.
Neither team could build much of a lead. With Kentucky seemingly safe in the final minute, McDonald hit a 3-pointer with 19.2 seconds left to make it 67-64.
Rajon Rondo, a 57 percent free-throw shooter, missed one of two free throws. McDonald fired away from the top of the 3-point arc and missed. The Wildcats grabbed the rebound—a huge difference in this one as they had a 47-38 edge on the boards—and finally the game was theirs. Rondo had 10 rebounds for Kentucky.
The other eye-popping number came at the line. Led by Perry’s perfect effort, Kentucky went 26-for-30. UAB only 9-for-17.
The win made the Wildcats 3-0 in Philadelphia—yup, the similarly nicknamed Arizona and Villanova also won its first-round games.
Playing across the street from the Spectrum, where Kentucky lost perhaps the greatest college basketball game ever played to Duke in the 1992 regional final, the Wildcats trailed by three at halftime and fretted over making another early trip back to their old Kentucky home.
Perry got rolling early, though. His ninth straight point gave the Wildcats a 41-37 lead. He snapped a tie game with a 3-pointer to make it 50-47, then hit another that made it 61-56 with 5:23 left.
The five-point cushion was exactly what the Wildcats needed to hold on an advance to the second round.