Kentucky begins title defense with win over Maryland
Brooklyn, NY – Kyle Wiltjer had 19 points and six rebounds as No. 3 Kentucky began its title defense with a 72-69 win over Maryland.
Archie Goodwin had 16 points and Jarrod Polson added 10 for the Wildcats (1-0), who defeated Kansas last year to capture their eighth NCAA championship.
"In the second half we couldn't make a basket. But we're learning. We got manhandled a little bit. We're not playing tough enough and I don't know how we are going to fix that," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said.
Alex Len totaled 23 points and 12 rebounds, Nick Faust had 11 and five while James Padgett added 10 and five for the Terrapins (0-1), who went 17-15 last season.
"We weren't ready for the big stage but in the second half we executed better," Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said.
Kentucky held a five-point lead after Willie Cauley-Stein made a free throw with 2:17 to play for a 68-63 advantage, but Charles Mitchell tipped in a shot and, following three misses from Kentucky, Dez Wells put in a free throw with 39 seconds left to make it a 68-66 game.
Wiltjer followed with two from the line and Len hit his first free throw with 10 seconds to play, but missed his second.
However, he grabbed his own board and put in a layup to make it a one-point game with eight seconds left.
Following two free throws from Jarrod Polson, Maryland had seven seconds to work with, but a smothering defense prevented Pe'Shon Howard from getting off a good shot and his 2-point attempt wouldn't have counted as time expired before he got the shot off.
Julius Mays made a 3-pointer with 11:43 left in the first half to give Kentucky a 19-12 lead, and a 6-0 run later in the half helped the team take a 49-36 advantage into the second half.
The Wildcats built their lead up to 15 early in the second half, but a 15-0 run tied the game as the Terrapins held Kentucky without a bucket for over six minutes. Shaquille Cleare capped the comeback with a slam with 11:41 to play.
From there, the game went back and forth as neither side was able to build a lead larger than four until late in the game.
Kentucky plays at No. 8 Duke on Tuesday ... Maryland controlled the boards, 54-38, but shot just 33.3 percent while Kentucky hit 42.9 percent of its shots ... Kentucky holds a 9-5 edge in the series against Maryland and snapped a two-game losing streak.