Kentucky beats Davidson without making a 3, snapping a historic NCAA streak

Kentucky held off Davidson in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, 78-73, after getting quite the test from the Atlantic 10 postseason champion. The 12th-seeded Wildcats hung with the fifth-seeded Wildcats for about 36 or 37 minutes despite their two best players shooting just 2-of-14 from beyond the arc.

Those two makes, though, were more than Kentucky managed. In fact, Peyton Aldridge’s one make was more than John Calipari’s team managed.

Kentucky failed to make a 3-pointer in a game for the first time since November 1988, when Calipari was a first-year coach at UMass. It had gone 1,047 consecutive games with at least one made 3, an NCAA record. The streak evaporated in Boise.

The 0-for-6 performance didn’t cost Kentucky, though. UK’s gameplan had been to force the ball down an undersized Davidson frontcourt’s throat. And it succeeded, going 26-for-45 from inside the arc.

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Kentucky breaks historic streak in win over Davidson
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Kentucky breaks historic streak in win over Davidson
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles against Peyton Aldridge #23 of the Davidson Wildcats in the second half during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: The Davidson Wildcats bench celebrates a three point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: Kevin Knox #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles against Rusty Reigel #32 of the Davidson Wildcats in the second half during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: Sacha Killeya-Jones #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates after dunking the ball in the second half against the Davidson Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Kentucky's Quade Green pulls up for a 3-pointer against Davidson during the first round of the NCAA Tournament West Regional at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, March 15, 2018. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/TNS via Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: Hamidou Diallo #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball in the first half against the Davidson Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: Kevin Knox #5 of the University of Kentucky shoots a free throw during the First Round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: Jon Axel Gudmundsson #3 of the Davidson College dribbles the ball during the First Round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: Sacha Killeya-Jones #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball against the Davidson Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Kentucky's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander throws down a dunk in the second half against Davidson during the first round of the NCAA Tournament West Regional at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, March 15, 2018. Kentucky advanced, 78-73. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/TNS via Getty Images)
Mar 15, 2018; Boise, ID, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (1) reacts after a dunk in the second half against the Davidson Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Taco Bell Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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Davidson, on the other hand, attempted 33. It made only 11, below its 39 percent season average. Had it been a bit more efficient from beyond the arc, Kentucky would have been in trouble.

But the Wildcats played to their strengths. Their athleticism affected Aldridge and freshman guard Kellan Grady, who were a combined 8-for-31 from the field. On the offensive end, they attacked the rim, and got to the free throw line nearly twice as much as their athletically overmatched opponents did. They knocked down 26 of 32 from the charity stripe.

Because they did enough in the paint and from the line, they also snapped another, shorter streak. Per ESPN’s John Gasaway, no team had won an NCAA tournament game without making a 3-pointer since Stanford in 2014:

Kentucky likely won’t be able to continue winning games in the tournament without making a single 3 – especially in potential matchups with No. 4 seed Arizona and top-seeded Virginia.

But it survived on Thursday because it was so superior inside. And in the end, that’s what the NCAA tournament is all about. It’s not about decades-long streaks. It’s about surviving and advancing. And Kentucky will be playing again in less than 48 hours.

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer and college basketball for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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