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Running redemption: Cats race past Hoosiers in rematch and into Elite Eight

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UK advanced to the Elite Eight with a thrilling 102-90 win over Indiana. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK advanced to the Elite Eight with a thrilling 102-90 win over Indiana. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team's postseason run, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK's journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog.

ATLANTA - How's that for a rematch?

Even if a second chance at Indiana wasn't about revenge, these Kentucky Wildcats may have never tasted a victory so sweet. Advancing past the Sweet 16 and into the Elite Eight for the third straight season under John Calipari, UK settled the score with the Hoosiers on Friday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Overcoming first-half foul trouble with a breakneck fast-paced game, Kentucky ran with the Hoosiers early and powered past them late in a 102-90 victory in one of the most thrilling games of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

With both teams set on running and taking it to the hoop, UK and Indiana combined for 36 fast-break points and 96 points in the paint. Kentucky scored 18 of those transition points and 44 in the paint, just enough to get past the highest scoring effort an opponent has posted on UK this season.

"It was a war," Calipari said.

That was reflected at the foul line.

As the Wildcats and Hoosiers focused on attacking the rim, officials blew their whistles early and often. The teams combined for 45 fouls and 54 foul shots, but the Cats capitalized the most by hitting 35-of-37 free throws.

"That's the game," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said.

The 35 makes was easily a season high and the 94.6 percentage was second only to an 11-for-11 effort against Florida. According to stat guru Ken Pomeroy, the 35-for-37 night a the foul line was the most free throws attempted while missing two or fewer in any Division I college basketball game this season.

Who said Coach Cal's teams couldn't shoot free throws?

"It's a lot easier when they go up and make free throws, I'll tell you that," Calipari said.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the free-throw charge, one of four Wildcats with a perfect night at the line. The freshman forward hit all 10 of his foul shots as he took the ball to the hoop with reckless abandon and converted on numerous second-chance opportunities.

"One of the things I was on Michael about is I want him to offensive rebound," Calipari said. "You have no responsibility back, go get the ball. And he did that today."

Six of Kidd-Gilchrist's 10 rebounds were on the offensive end as he finished with his seventh-career double-double. It was an encouraging sign for Kentucky's most passionate player, the only one of UK's six top players who struggled in the first two NCAA Tournament games.

"We're winding it down and he's stepping it up," Calipari said.

Crean chose an interesting strategy with Kidd-Gilchrist and didn't guard him on the perimeter. The freshman forward noticed and said it fired him up.

"When you get opportunities, pick your balls, take your shots," Calipari told Kidd-Gilchrist. "Michael Gilchrist, you're our energy guy. Go after every offensive rebound. Fly up the court in transition."

Kidd-Gilchrist led five scorers in double figures as Kentucky scored its most points since the season opener against Marist. Doron Lamb scored 21, Darius Miller had 19, Marquis Teague totaled 14 (plus seven assist) and Terrence Jones added 12.

The balanced effort was more than enough to help the Cats overcome Anthony Davis' foul trouble. The nation's leading shot blocker and Oscar Robertson Trophy winner (national player of the year) was limited to six first-half minutes with two fouls.

Hesitant to pick up a third, he was slow to start the second half, but the 6-foot-10 forward still managed to finish with nine points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

"By the second the second half my teammates told me, 'You're fine, just come out and play your game. We need you to steal, block shots, rebound and score the ball,' " Davis said. "That's what I did in the second half."

The tempo of Friday night's game was obvious from the start. With 24,731 Kentucky and Indiana fans buzzing from the opening tip, UK stormed to a 16-11 lead by the first media timeout.

Even when Davis picked up his second foul at the 14:05 mark and three of Indiana's top players (Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls) picked up two fouls, the two teams hardly missed an offensive beat.

The Hoosiers shot 58.1 percent in the first half while getting 17 points from Christian Watford. It had nothing to do with lack of defensive intensity, Miller said.

"That was them," Miller said. "They were knocking down shots. They were being really aggressive and getting to the rim. We just had trouble guarding them tonight."

Indiana had the same defensive problems. Despite a magnificent offensive half from the Hoosiers in the first 20 minutes, Kentucky kept the ship afloat without Davis and led 50-47 at halftime.

"I love coaching those kinds of games," Calipari said. "I can't stand a game in the 50s. Can't stand coaching it; can't stand watching it."

Calipari's team was well into the 70s with more than 10 minutes left when it took its first double-digit lead of the game, a 74-64 advantage.

"We like being playing fast-paced games just because we like being on the attack and we like when Marquis pushes it," Jones said. "We're playing our best basketball just because we have so many options, and he's such a good ball handler and he controls the tempo and he just gets us in everything we need to get to."

Kentucky would stretch its lead to as many 13 before weathering a couple of mini flurries by the Hoosiers down the stretch. Ultimately, unlike the final minute of the game in Bloomington, Ind., the Cats were too good and too calm at the line to let the Hoosiers knock them off again.

"The game was a very intense game," Miller said. "It was up and down for the most part. I felt like both teams did a great job of executing what they were trying to do. ... It was a fun game to be a part of the way both teams played."

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