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Freshman trio advances Kentucky

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Photographs by MICHAEL CONROY / AP

Kentucky forward Bam Adebayo (right) swats away a potential game-tying shot from Wichita State’s Landy Shamet to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 65-62 victory in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — Bam Adebayo timed it perfectly, slapping the shot away with his right hand less than a second before the buzzer sounded. For the 13th game in a row, Kentucky’s fabulous freshmen had their hands all over another victory.

Wham, bam, move on ‘Cats, right into the Sweet 16.

The youngest team in March Madness grew up in the closing minutes Sunday and sent Wichita State to yet another second-round heartbreak, 65-62 in the NCAA Tournament.

“They’re young, but they have a will to win and play with courage and are skilled basketball players and great kids who share,” Coach John Calipari said.

The freshman trio made all of the significant plays in the final minutes.

De’Aaron Fox had 14 points, including a late steal and dunk. Malik Monk (Bentonville) blocked a shot and made two free throws in the final 13 seconds. Adebayo had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and he finished it off by swatting away Landry Shamet’s three-point attempt as it left his hand with less than a second left.

“He pump-faked, and I knew he had to shoot it so I just went up and tried to block it,” Adebayo said.

As simple as that.

Kentucky (31-5) moved into the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in nine years. The Shockers (31-5) were wiping away tears after another crushing second-round loss.

It felt familiar.

Three years ago, Wichita State was 35-0 when it lost to Kentucky 78-76 in the second round, crestfallen after Fred Van Vleet’s three-pointer missed at the buzzer. This time, their attempt at a tying three never had a chance. Shamet finished with 20 points.

UCLA 79, CINCINNATI 67

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Lonzo Ball scored 19 points and ignited UCLA’s rally from a poor start with nine assists, lifting the third-seeded Bruins to a victory over Cincinnati.

UCLA (31-4) had a hard time solving sixth-seeded Cincinnati’s active defense in the first half, unable to get shots to drop or get out in transition. The Bruins found a new gear in the second half, breaking out for dunks and dropping in strings of three-pointers to quickly push the lead to double digits.

Now UCLA is headed to its third Sweet 16 appearance in four seasons under Coach Steve Alford, erasing — at least in part — the 15-17 letdown of a year ago. The Bruins will face No. 2 seed Kentucky in the South Regional semifinals Friday in Memphis.

Cincinnati (30-6) had no real answer when the Bruins got rolling, falling short of their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2012.

Jarron Cumberland had 15 points to lead the Bearcats.

This marquee matchup pitted the nation’s highest-scoring team against one of the best defensive teams.

UCLA led the nation in scoring at 90.6 points per game and assists with 21.6 a game. The Bruins rolled to 97 points in their opening victory against Kent State.

The Bearcats are ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense at 60.8 per game and 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency in KenPom.com’s calculations.

Cincinnati showed off its offensive abilities in its opener, hitting a school NCAA Tournament-record 62 percent from the field, while UCLA continued its season-long struggles at the defensive end to allow Kent State to keep their first-round game close until late.

Sports on 03/20/2017

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