On February 16 Breitbart Sports was the first to write that Kentucky might have trouble even making the tournament without injured center Nerlens Noel. This weekend Breitbart Sports did not have Kentucky anywhere near an NCAA bid, coming in at 14th in the final Middle 20. The collapse of Southern basketball this year with the struggles of the ACC and SEC continued Tuesday when the Wildcats were stunned in the opening round of the NIT by a Robert Morris program that has one NCAA victory in the history of the program is troubling.
The highlights of Robert Morris basketball history was 1983, when they beat Georgia Southern 64-54 in the opening round of the NCAA. They almost won a second tournament game when Karon Abraham hit five three-pointers to fall just short 73-70 to Villanova in 2010. The Kentucky Wildcats’ basketball history includes eight national championships, and three of their players on the court today may be the school’s 35th, 36th and 37th first round NBA Draft picks. In this crazy year, ADVANTAGE ROBERT MORRIS.
Lucky Jones drew a foul while driving to the basket early and finished with a free throw to make it 10-0 Robert Morris early. Morris played well in the other two games Robert Morris played against www.kenpom.com’s Top 80 teams this year. Jones beat Ohio with 15 points and 6 assists, then came within two of a stunning upset at Xavier with 12 points and seven assists.
When Kentucky finally made it 37-34, Jones responded with 12 points in nine minutes. He started his run by hitting a three-pointer while being fouled, and turning it into a four point play to make it 38-31 with 14:49 to play. He finished his 12-point run with four straight free throws to make it 53-42 with 6:32 to play.
But with 3:41 to left he committed his fourth foul on a flagrant foul when he took a vicious swing across the chest of a Kentucky player going to the hoop to be ejected from the game, and Robert Morris had to play the defending national champion without their leader. The Wildcats finally tied the game 57-57 in the closing minute.
The Wildcat’s Willie Cauley-Stein then blocked a layup attempt by Russell Johson with 12 seconds to play, but Mike McFadden grabbed the rejection and Cauley-Stein had to foul him.
After a timeout with nine seconds left McFadden drained both free throws to make it 59-57, and Kyle Wiltjer’s long three pointer at the end missed.