COLUMN: There wasn’t much WKU could do on Thursday

Freshman guard T.J. Price and freshman forward George Fant try to steal the ball from Kentucky forward Terrence Jones during the teams’ NCAA Tournament game at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville on Thursday night. UK won 81-66.

Brad Stephens

LOUISVILLE — Ray Harper and his players gave reasons for the loss.

“We rushed things in the first half.”

“We didn’t get back in transition.”

“We took bad shots.”

The fact is, WKU could’ve fixed every one of those things on Thursday and it probably wouldn’t have changed much.

The Toppers simply ran into one big blue buzzsaw.

No. 1 Kentucky took control late in the first half against WKU and pulled away for a convincing 81-66 win in an NCAA Tournament Second Round game at the KFC Yum! Center.

Thursday was the Wildcats’ first chance to play since losing the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship game on Sunday to Vanderbilt, UK’s second loss of the year.

You knew the Wildcats were going to come out motivated to avoid another letdown.

And after WKU freshman guard T.J. Price dropped 10 quick points and put the Toppers up 12-10, UK decided to take control.

Preseason SEC Player of the Year Terrence Jones dominated offensively in the paint, finishing with a game-high 22 points.

UK guard Doron Lamb hit a couple of momentum 3s and finished with 16 points.

And star freshman Anthony Davis (16 points, 9 rebounds, 7 blocks) finished one rebound and three blocks short of the second triple-double in Wildcat history.

As freshman guard Derrick Gordon said of UK after the game, “That basketball team ain’t named the No. 1 team in this tournament for nothing.”

Sure the Toppers could’ve likely improved in some areas on Thursday.

But there’s no way they can leave Louisville feeling like they let one get away.

They just ran into a much more talented team and came up empty.

Fast forward a few years and we may not be having this conversation.

WKU is a young team right now full of a bunch of talented freshmen that are only going to get better.

The more those guys win, the easier it’ll be for Harper to recruit new talent to help them out.

If things go as planned, it’s not totally inconceivable that the Toppers could enter an NCAA Tournament game as the big, bad favorites as opposed to the feel-good story underdogs.

Be patient, WKU fans, and days like that will come.

But Thursday was not that day.