DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Maybe John Calipari was onto something when he suggested Kentucky was under-seeded.
Jamal Murray led five players in double figures with 19 points and the fourth-seeded Wildcats, behind an NCAA Tournament-record 15 blocked shots, routed Stony Brook 85-57 on Thursday night to set up a showdown with rival Indiana in the second round on Saturday.
Isaiah Briscoe scored 13 and added 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (27-8), who haven’t faced the Hoosiers since beating them in the Sweet 16 in 2012. Indiana is seeded fifth this time around, making for an opening-week meeting for the two blue-blood programs.
“It’s kind of unfortunate that this game is being played this early. It should be a round or two later. But it is what it is and we’ll have to play,” Calipari said.
Kentucky opened the second half on a 20-6 run and was ahead 53-25 with 14 minutes to go. The Wildcats hit 13 of their first 16 shots after the break.
Jameel Warney had 23 points and 15 rebounds for Stony Brook (26-7), which was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance. The Seawolves, who shot 47.6 percent entering the game, was just 20 of 76 from the field and played like a team not used to the big stage.
“You can do all the drills and try to go around them. But they’re just so big and athletic,” Stony Brook guard Rayshaun McGrew said.
Stony Brook opened the game with an epic stretch of bad shooting, hitting just three baskets in 27 tries with 14 straight misses at one point. That allowed the somewhat disjointed Wildcats to pull things together and take a 33-19 lead into halftime.
Having survived some rough moments with the lead in hand, Kentucky finally started playing like the team that won a share of the Southeastern Conference title yet again.
Murray, who went a ghastly 1 of 9 in the first half, scored 15 points in 10 minutes to help the Wildcats coast to a win that ensures a fresh shot at Indiana, which cruised past Chattanooga 99-74 earlier Thursday.
“I thought they played really well. Unfortunately we didn’t. I thought we could kind of hang around a little bit,” Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said.
Alex Poythress and Skal Labissiere each had 12 points for the Wildcats, and Labissiere led the way with six blocks.
“To be able to hold a team like we did, to block the shots we did and follow a game plan, which this team has struggled with at times (was good),” Calipari said. “They know what’s at stake now.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats were outrebounded 12-5 on the offensive glass in the first half. But their length inside was a big reason Stony Brook missed so many putbacks … Calipari has yet to lose to a team seeded lower than 10th in the NCAA Tournament.
Stony Brook: The Seawolves didn’t hit their first 3-pointer until early in the second half. Kentucky didn’t either, but the one the Wildcats hit to end their drought made it 47-25 … Carson Puriefoy bowled over a member of the Kentucky pep band going for a loose ball, then hung around to help the youngster up.
The scoreboard played a “Guess The Great” game on the scoreboard. Once Kentucky fans realized it was former Duke star Christian Laettner, they booed lustily.
Warney, who scored over 2,000 points in his career, had 66 points in his last two games … Kentucky’s 15 blocks were also a season high … The Wildcats outscored Stony Brook 46-22 in the paint.
Kentucky will face the Hoosiers on Saturday for a trip to the Sweet 16.
Stony Brook’s season is over.
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