Kentucky sprints past Jackrabbits
Lexington, KY (Sports Network) - Rajon Rondo scored 17 points as ninth-ranked Kentucky broke the game open early in the second half and defeated South Dakota State 71-54 in the first round of the Guardians Classic at Rupp Arena.
Rekalin Sims added 11 points, going 6-of-7 from the foul line, and Joe Crawford chipped in 10 points for the Wildcats (1-0), who only shot 39 percent from the floor but connected on nine three-point field goals.
Ben Beran led all scorers with 25 points (11-of-17), almost half of the points the Jackrabbits scored for the game, as South Dakota State (0-1) shot 37 percent from the floor and attempted only two free throws.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the first half. Kentucky shot only 37 percent, but connected on 5-of-12 from beyond the arc. Rondo scored 12 in the first half, while Beran scored 10 (5-of-9) for South Dakota State.
The Jackrabbits didn't get to the charity stripe in the opening 20 minutes, while Kentucky converted on 4-of-9 and led 37-24 at the break.
The Wildcats came out strong to begin the second half, scoring the first five points to take a 42-24 lead.
Sheray Thomas hit a three-pointer with 10 seconds left in the half, then made a lay-up for the first field goal of the second. Crawford completed a three- point play following a South Dakota State missed field goal with 18:31 left in the game.
The lead grew to 51-30, as Crawford and Patrick Sparks connected on three- pointers in-between a missed three by Beran. Sparks jumper from behind the arc forced the Jackrabbits to call their second timeout in the opening four minutes of the half and completed a 17-6 run with 16:04 left.
South Dakota State never got any closer than 14 points the rest of the game.
Kentucky jumped out to a 23-10 lead with 7:58 remaining in the first half. Rondo tipped in a Thomas miss, then after a Beran dunk, Rondo hit a three- pointer, giving him seven of the Wildcat's first 23 points.
Kentucky has been ranked in the Associated Press top 10 for 36- straight polls, which is the longest streak in the nation...UK has held 66 of its last 67 opponents below 50 percent shooting..This is Kentucky's 30th season in Rupp Arena...This was the first-ever meeting between the two schools...South Dakota State's only lead was 2-0.KENTUCKY SDAKOTAST