By Rick Blair – Lexington, KY – Sports View America Columnist
The Cats learn to fight back as they have an incredible 78-61 come from behind win over the Spartans of UNC-Greensboro. The Wildcats took on this tough UNC-Greensboro team that came into the game with a 7-1 record on the season.
The experienced Spartans took an early five point lead in the game and was still up 17-13 at the second media timeout of the first half. At that point in the game UNCG’s Alonzo Francis a 6-foot-3 senior guard from Malaga, Spain had 11 of those 17 points for the Spartans.
Kentucky eventually got used to the physical play and finally took an 18-17 lead when freshman forward EJ Montgomery made his first basket of the game on a running layup. The Wildcats extended their lead to as many as seven points in the first half when Quade Green made a short jumper to give the Cats a 29-22 lead with 6:52 to go in the half. Kentucky would hold the lead until about two minutes to go in the half, but then the Cats went cold and were outscored 5-0 as they stumbled into the locker room trailing 40-37.
The second half was still a struggle for the Wildcats as they could not take the lead and were still trailing 55-53 when a media timeout was called with 11:48 to go in the game.
Once again the Cats got frustrated by the physical play and got mad. This time they used the aggression to fight back. First it was Ashton Hagans who made a basket while being fouled, the free-throw gave Kentucky its first lead of the second half at 56-55, but it was a short lived lead as UNCG’s point guard Demetrius Troy made a running basket to regain the lead for the visiting Spartans at 10:06 to go in the game. That would be the last lead for UNCG as the Wildcats went on a tear, outscoring the Spartans 22-4 in the final ten minutes of the game. The exciting run by the Wildcats was sparked by freshman guard Keldon Johnson. Johnson made two free throws then he made back-to-back emphatic dunks that sent an electricity through the team and the crowd. The energy inspired the Wildcats to play some of their best basketball of the season down the stretch and to turn a close game into a 17 point win.
Senior Reid Travis had a solid game, his experience and physical presence was huge for the Wildcats. Travis led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points in the game and also had a team leading 12 rebounds. It was his first double-double as a Wildcat. Tyler Herro had another big game in his young career as he scored 18 points, which tied his career high and it is the fifth time he has scored in double figures this season. Keldon Johnson who helped inspire the second half run that led to the Wildcats victory also had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Ashton Hagans had a big game on the defense end as he held UNCG’s Alonzo Francis to only one basket in the second half, Francis had torched the Wildcats for 19 points in the first half. The Cats defensive effort in the second half was incredible, UNCG only made 1 of 12 three-pointers in the second half for a measly 8 percent. It was the main reason behind the Wildcats break out win.
This was a huge win for the Wildcats as they were able to overcome a tough, experienced opponent to run their record to 7-1 on the season. The Cats will be in action next Saturday in New York City at Madison Square Garden against the Pirates of Seton Hall.