|Written by Michael Patrick|
Bet on NCAABOn an afternoon when the stadium seemed like a sea of Kentucky Blue, the Wildcats would be tested by a well-known opponent. In a rematch of last years Sweet 16 match-up, a game which the Mountaineers won and propelled themselves into the Elite 8, the Wildcats would take advantage of what felt like a home game for them in Tampa. This battle between two coaches who have total respect for one another would be dominated by the guards, one of whom was playing in the McDonald's All-American game last year when the Mountaineers defeated the Wildcats.
Freshman Brandon Knight of Kentucky and senior Joe Mazzulla of West Virginia took charge of their respective teams this afternoon dominating the first half of play. Mazzulla proved to be the stronger of the two in the first half by exploding for 15 points while dishing out four assists. His first half performance allowed his mountaineers to take a 41-33 lead into the break. Knight had a strong first half as well, scoring 16 first half points including three for three from behind the arc.
Early in the half, the Wildcats seemed to be in complete control, getting off the a 23-16 lead, but Mazzulla and the Mountaineers battled back by putting together a 25-10 run to end the half. During this period it was the penetration of Mazzulla and the Mountaineers tenacity on the offensive glass that allowed them to sprint toward the intermission.
The second half was once again dominated by guard play, but it was the freshman who would prevail, pushing the Wildcats to their 71-63 victory. The Wildcats opened the second half on fire, getting out to a quick 9-0 run. From this point, they never looked back. Led by Knights 30 points and Josh Harrellson's 15 points and 10 rebounds, the Wildcats avenged their loss and earned a spot in next Weeks Sweet 16.