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Teague and Miller lead No. 1 Kentucky past Iowa State

By Jerry Tipton, McClatchy Newspapers –

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Iowa State mostly kept Kentucky away from the basket. But Kentucky put the ball in the basket often enough to win, 87-71, on Saturday night to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

Marquis Teague’s career-high 24 points and Darius Miller’s season-high 19 points enabled UK to breeze without its customary scoring dominance in the paint.

Kentucky (34-2) didn’t come close to its average of 36.7 “paint points” coming into the NCAA Tournament. UK barely got half the 46 points from the paint it posted — no pun intended — in smothering Western Kentucky here Thursday.

Iowa State limited UK to 24 points from the lane, which equaled its second-lowest total of the season.

So what?

“Everybody, they want to talk about our three-point shooting,” UK Coach John Calipari said. “We’re one of the best in the country. We just don’t shoot a lot.”

UK, which ranked No. 58 in the country in three-point accuracy (37 percent), had made 10 or more three-pointers only four times all season before 10-of-20 accuracy foiled Iowa State’s customary collapse-into-the-lane defense.

Noting UK’s 15-for-63 three-point shooting in the four most recent games, Iowa State Coach Fred Hoiberg gambled that the misfires would continue.

“You have to take something away from them,” he said.

Iowa State (23-11) outscored UK in the paint but made only two of their first 18 three-point shots. Iowa State made a season-low three three-pointers. That wasn’t nearly enough support for star Royce White, who led Iowa State with 23 points and nine rebounds.

“Our biggest strength is the three-point shot, and we go three-for-22,” Hoiberg said. “We’re not going to win very many games when we shoot the ball like that.”

If Iowa State, which suffered its most lopsided loss of the season, intended to keep Kentucky away from the basket, the strategy worked in the first half.

But UK rode perimeter shooting to a 38-27 halftime lead. The Cats took the initiative by making 10 of their first 18 shots to take control. Three-pointers by Kyle Wiltjer and Miller were part of a 10-0 run that gave UK its largest first-half lead at 23-11.

“I told our guys, ‘Look, Darius, you and Doron (Lamb) must shoot the ball because they’re going to give those to you,’” Calipari said. “‘If they rush you, drive them into the middle of the lane. They’re not going to leave Anthony Davis. You’ll get something.’”

Teague, whose 13 first-half points included his first three-pointer since the regular-season finale at Florida, gave Kentucky its largest lead with a fast-break layup.

“I didn’t really care about scoring points, really,” Teague said. “I just wanted to get my teammates involved.”

White scored easy as you please on the game’s first possession and seemed headed for a big night. He posted up against Terrence Jones and went around him for a layup on the game’s first possession.

White scored nine of Iowa State’s first 11 points, then went silent. He took only one shot in the half’s final 14 minutes.

“We were just watching his eyes,” Davis said. “If he was looking up, he was looking to pass. And if he’s (looking) down, he just wants to score the ball.”

The Cyclones’ only three of the first half — by Melvin Ejim, a 20.8-percent shooter from beyond the arc — reduced UK’s lead to 26-22 with seven minutes left.

Kentucky held Iowa State to one basket the rest of the half. A 21-11 rebounding advantage helped keep the Cats comfortably ahead.

But Kentucky’s lead vanished before the first TV time-out of the second half.

White led the charge. Twice he drove for easy scores, on the second he ripped the ball from a posting Davis and drove the length of the court for a dunk over Jones. That play reduced UK’s lead to 38-34.

Iowa State tied on a heady driving layup in which Scott Christopherson used the rim to screen Davis.

Dunks by Jones and Davis pushed Kentucky ahead 48-42, prompting an Iowa State time-out.

A phantom foul on Lamb — his fourth — caused UK fan anxiety. But Kentucky countered without its best perimeter shooter.

A fast-break Miller three-pointer made it 53-44, prompting another Iowa State time-out.

But after the Cyclones missed two more three-pointers, Teague took a pass from Davis and scored while being fouled. The basket gave him a career-high 17 points.

The lead grew to as much as 76-52 on a Teague layup.

During the post-game handshake, Calipari told Hoiberg that Iowa State caught Kentucky on one of its better days.

“I said that’s about as good as we can play,” Calipari said. “We played good. I’ve got a good basketball team. You won’t believe this (but) I’ve got good players, too. But they’re a good team.”

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