LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — When a team has just two assists — that is not a typo — chances of things ending well are slim.
Especially when the opponent is top-ranked Kentucky, which outmatched 16th-seeded Hampton in almost every way during Thursday night’s 79-56 rout at the NCAA Tournament.
Besides shooting just 29 percent, the Pirates (17-18) were outrebounded 51-31, outscored 44-20 in the paint and 18-2 on the fast break. Such things could be expected given the talent, size and depth differences between the programs, especially with the Wildcats (35-0) out to become an unbeaten national champion.
Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr. even joked beforehand about needing divine intervention to find an answer. Afterward, he simply said his team might have tried too hard to hang with Kentucky.
“We did get a little rattled, and I thought we got caught up in the moment a little bit,” he said. “That’s understandable at this stage, especially when you’ve never been there before. But overall, no one’s happy with a loss, but I am pleased with the overall effort.”
Hampton’s Quinton Chievous shook off an ankle injury sustained in Tuesday’s First Four win over Manhattan to score 22 points with 10 rebounds, but the Pirates were no match for Kentucky after the first 10 minutes and trailed by as many as 35 midway through the second half.
“I wasn’t really thinking about my ankle,” Chievous said. “I didn’t really feel pain until after the game, until it was over. I think my team competed great against the No. 1 team in the country.
“I feel like, if we didn’t have a couple of those turnovers in the beginning when they were up, I think it was 14-18, I feel like it could have been a little bit different.”
Karl-Anthony Towns bounced back from a mini-slump with 21 points and 11 rebounds, Andrew Harrison added 14 points for Kentucky.
Limited by foul trouble the past two games, the 6-foot-11 Towns was forceful all night in helping the unbeaten Wildcats (35-0) cruise to the site’s most lopsided outcome of the day after three 1-point finishes at the KFC Yum! Center.
Trey Lyles added 10 points and six rebounds, Tyler Ulis scored 11 and Willie Cauley-Stein grabbed 11 rebounds for the Wildcats, who face Cincinnati on Saturday.
Kentucky had an arena full of blue-clad fans loudly cheering, though Big Blue Nation had to be more patient than usual by waiting through an overtime warmup between Cincinnati and Purdue before the game finally started at 10:19 p.m. ET.
The late, late tipoff might explain why the Wildcats were a step slow getting started against the Pirates, who faced long odds despite surpassing expectations with Tuesday night’s wire-to-wire win over Manhattan in the First Four game at Dayton.
Hampton made things intriguing for a few minutes with a 4-3 lead and a later a 9-all tie that pleased its contingent of fans. Kentucky took charge from there, gaining its first double-digit lead with about six minutes left in the first half and didn’t look back.
A 21-8 run over the final 7 1/2 minutes provided a 41-22 halftime lead for Kentucky, which followed with a 9-0 run early in the second half to put it out of reach for Hampton, which still drew a lot of eyes to the game in hopes of the Pirates pulling off the impossible.
Maybe another time.
“To get that type of exposure and to hear your university’s name announced that many times, not just on national TV, but throughout Facebook and Twitter,” Joyner said. “I mean, that’s probably $10 million worth of free publicity that we got this week. You can’t pay for that.”
Hampton: Deron Powers recorded both of the Pirates’ assists, one in each half.
Kentucky: The Wildcats shot 46 percent. … Towns and Cauley-Stein combined for all five Kentucky blocks.
HAMPTON: Season ends.
KENTUCKY: Faces Cincinnati on Saturday.
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