Midwest No. 2 Kentucky was down a key player for its first round matchup Thursday, as sophomore forward PJ Washington has been sidelined by a sprained left foot. The general consensus was that even with Washington unavailable the Wildcats would have little trouble with No. 15 Abilene Christian, and that’s how things played out in Jacksonville.
Kentucky (27-6) beat ACU by the final score of 79-44, with freshman guard Keldon Johnson leading the charge offensively.
Johnson, a 46.3% shooting from the field for the season, made ten of his 16 field goal attempts and finished with a game-high 25 points. The freshman was one of three double-digit scorers for John Calipari’s team, with Reid Travis adding 18 points and nine rebounds and Tyler Herro tallying 14 on 7-for-12 shooting.
As a team Kentucky shot 53.6% from the field, and its 45.2% offensive rebounding percentage more than made up for a 4-for-14 night from beyond the arc.
Abilene Christian (27-6), making its first NCAA tournament appearance, was led offensively by Jaren Lewis as he scored 17 points while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out three assists. ACU only turned the ball over ten times on the night, but in addition to the issues defending a Kentucky team that held a significant physical advantage the Southland Conference champions also struggled offensively.
Abilene Christian shot just 32.1% from the field and 5-for-23 from beyond the arc, and the other four starters combined to score just 27 points.
Next up for Kentucky will be either No. 7 Wofford or No. 10 Seton Hall, which beat the Wildcats in overtime back in December. As for Washington’s status for Saturday, Calipari said that he didn’t think it was likely that the sophomore would be able to play.