AUSTIN, Texas (Ticker) -- In a tournament that favors senior leadership, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith wasn't afraid to turn the game over to his young bench.
Chuck Hayes scored 12 points and Rajon Rondo added 10 as the No. 2 Wildcats defeated sixth-seeded Utah, 62-52, in the Austin Region semifinals.
Kentucky (28-5), which improved to 6-0 all-time against Utah in the NCAA Tournament, will play Michigan State in the regional final on Sunday.
Over a crucial 11-minute span in the second half, the bench scored all the points for the Wildcats and played some pretty good defense too, helping hold Utah without a field goal for nearly seven minutes during that stretch.
"(Depth) shows a good team," Hayes said. "Three starters in foul trouble (in the first half) was frustrating. But the bench came in and picked us up. It was definitely a team win."
Utah (29-6) got the slow-down pace it wanted but couldn't overcome Kentucky's season-high 61 percent (24-of-39) shooting.
"Patience was the key," said Kentucky forward Kelenna Azubuike who scored nine points. "They caught us a little offguard with a box-and-1 on Patrick. ... They overplayed the passing lanes, but we didn't let them get us out of our tempo. We just knocked down our shots."
Kentucky junior Patrick Sparks hit a 3-pointer, his only basket of the game, with 17 1/2 minutes to play to give Kentucky a 36-26 lead. The reserves took over soon thereafter.
After a lefthanded layup by Andrew Bogut pulled Utah within 40-37 with 11 minutes left, freshman Joe Crawford and junior Ravi Moss hit 3-pointers and Crawford scored on a layup to rebuild the edge to 48-38 three minutes later.
"This is the kind of game when players step up and play their best," Crawford said. "I just wanted to do whatever I could for the team. Tonight, we played our style, we took good shots, and we played with energy and enthusiasm."
The Runnin' Utes then hit four free throws before starter Randolph Morris, who played just five minutes because of foul problems, returned and made a turnaround jumper - his only basket of the game - with 6 1/2 minutes to play for a 50-42 lead.
Kentucky starter Chuck Hayes then checked into the game and converted a three-point play for a 54-43 lead. Utah didn't get any closer than eight the rest of the way.
"(Making that shot) felt good, especially on (Bogut)," said Hayes, who shot 5-of-6 but turned the ball over four times. "Fatigue was a factor on him (on that play). It gave us momentum and sealed the game."
The Utes, who shot 51.5 percent for the season, shot just 40 percent (17-of-42) from the floor and a season-low 50 percent from the line (14-of-28). Their point total also was the second lowest of the season.
"They have great depth, they play 13 guys." Utah coach Ray Giacoletti said. "They wore us down. If we could have hit some free throws it might have been different."
Bogut, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds, shot 8-of-19 from the floor but missed seven of his 11 free throws. He battled against the 6-10 Morris, 7-0 Lucas Obrzut and 7-3 Shagari Alleyne.
"(Playing against them) was pretty tough. They banged me around," Bogut said. "I had some good looks, just couldn't knock down my shots. It wasn't anything special that they did."
"Our team defense was just great," Hayes said. "Our three seven-footers did everything they can to stop Bogut and made it hard for him."
With several players saddled with two fouls, Smith played 13 players in the first half.
A layup by Rondo gave the Wildcats their biggest lead, 21-11, with 7:18 to play, before settling for a 29-24 lead at intermission. Kentucky shot 59 percent (13-of-22) and held Bogut to 3-of-11 shooting. Utah stayed in the game on the strength of an 8-1 advantage in offensive rebounds.