The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb figured Kentucky’s freshmen might have the jitters.
Good thing the sophomores already have plenty of NCAA tournament experience to share.
Jones had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Lamb scored 16 and top-seeded Kentucky began its quest for an eighth national title with an 81-66 victory over Western Kentucky on Thursday night.
"For this to be the first NCAA game for us, freshmen are usually -- well I know I was last year -- just a little nervous about all the pressure put on us, and it wasn’t even as much pressure last year as it is this year," Jones said. "I just wanted to tell everybody to have fun and run. We just got going from there."
On a day when Syracuse nearly became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a 16, the Wildcats (33-2) clearly relished their growing role as favorites. Freshman and player of the year candidate Anthony Davis added 16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for Kentucky, which was never seriously threatened.
"I’ve got a good team and good players," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who never mentioned the Orange’s struggles against UNC-Asheville to his team. "Let’s worry about us playing as well as we can play; if that’s not good enough, then it’s done."
Jones surprised many when he came back to Kentucky after his freshman year, and he has struggled at times this season with a finger injury and a diminished role because of coach Calipari’s third No. 1 recruiting class. But the sophomores -- Jones and Lamb -- led the way on a team that’s built a reputation this season as being one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
"Last year, they went through a lot. We made it to the Final Four. We had a lot tough games; we’ve been in a lot of intense games. I feel like they’ve experienced almost as much as any senior," senior Darius Miller said. "Making it to the Final Four, not everybody gets the chance to experience that. They know what it takes just as well as I do."