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The Kentucky Men’s Basketball team defeated the Georgetown Tigers in the first of two exhibition games on Friday night by a score of 92-69. It was the first opportunity for Kentucky fans to watch the ‘Cats play organized basketball versus an opponent since the Canada trip over the summer. Exhibition games are traditionally used to get players up to game speed and find somewhat of a game flow on both ends of the court. They are also an opportunity for coaches to begin to hash out player rotations and minutes outside of the team-on-team battles during practice. For Kentucky, they were without any of their three 7-footers for the game, with no sure timetable for any of the three to return to game action. Croation 7-2 Freshman Zvonimir Ivisic is the biggest question mark on the team as far as ability and impact to the team. He is currently in the process of being granted eligibility by the NCAA and will be unable to play in organized games until he is cleared. He is participating in practice. The other two 7-footers, star Freshman Aaron Bradshaw and returning Sophomore Ugonna Onyenso are both out indefinitely with foot injuries. Calipari has speculated that Bradshaw will be able to return at some point before Kentucky begins conference play. Returning impact players for Kentucky include Senior Antonio Reeves, Sophomore Adou Thiero, and Sophomore Ugonna Onyenso. Freshman include DJ Wager, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, Joey Hart, Jordan Burks, Rob Dillingham, and Zvonimir Ivisic. The ‘Cats also added West Virginia transfer Tre Mitchell.
For Georgetown, their offense is led by Cam Brooks-Harris, Jaquay Wales, and Kyran Jones. The Tigers are fresh off of a successful 24-4 season in the NAIA. The Tigers season ended with a first round NAIA tournament loss to Huntington (Ind). The Tigers are led by head coach Chris Briggs.
The starting lineup for the ‘Cats included DJ Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Adou Thiero, and Tre Mitchell.
The Tigers won the tip but the ‘Cats quickly got a steal and quick dunk by Thiero to open up the scoring. Mitchell responded with a block on the next Kentucky defensive stand. The ‘Cats turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation on their next possession. The Tigers connected on a mid-range jumper for their first points of the game, while Reeves responded with a mid-range jumper of his own to give the ‘Cats an early 4-2 lead. Reeves converted a transition layup off of a Kentucky steal. Reeves found Mitchell on a nice assist in the paint to put the ‘Cats in front 8-6 at the first media timeout. Pace of play to begin the game for Kentucky was very quick, as the ‘Cats put up 11 shots in the first 5-minutes of action. The first ‘Cats off the bench were Dillingham and Burks. The Tigers took a 10-8 lead after back-to-back buckets out of the first timeout. Dillingham found Mitchell for the first three of the game for the ‘Cats, giving them a 13-12 lead. Reed Sheppard checked in at the next dead ball for Kentucky. Dillingham then converted a crafty layup on the next possession. The score at the under 12-minute timeout was 15-14 Kentucky. Dillingham found a wide-open Sheppard for three that found bottom to push the lead to 18-14 ‘Cats. Burks converted a steal and dunk after a Reeves floater to add to the ‘Cats lead at 22-16. Another crafty layup from Dillingham brought the score to 26-20 at the under 8-minute media timeout. The Tigers hit their first three of the game to narrow the ‘Cats lead to 27-23. Wagner responded with a driving layup for his first points of the game. The ‘Cats offense got a little stagnant during the next stretch, one where Dillingham was on the bench for a breather. The Kentucky lead shrunk to just 2 at 29-27 with 3:38-minutes to play in the half. Reeves drove the baseline for a floater, then found Burks for another conversion to push the ‘Cats lead to 35-17 with 2-minutes to play. Georgetown ended the final 1:47-minutes on a 7-0 run. The score at the half saw the ‘Cats take just a 1-point lead at 35-34. The ‘Cats shot just 41% from the field in the first half and 22% from 3PT. Kentucky committed 7 first half turnovers but did create 6 steals as a team. Reeves led the team with 17 minutes, with Mitchell close behind with 16 minutes. Reeves also led the team in scoring with 8 points. Sheppard added 7 points. Mitchell had a full first half line of 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Of note, the offense looked much better with better motion and ball movement with Dillingham running point guard in the first half. The ‘Cats struggled to get easy buckets that led to just the 1 points halftime lead.
Halftime: Kentucky 35 – Georgetown 34
Kentucky opened the half with a Thiero and-one to push their lead to 38-34. Theiro immediately created a steal and converted a layup in transition, then found an open Reeves for three to push the lead to 43-34 Kentucky, opening the half on a quick 8-0 run in just over a minute of action. Theiro collected another steal and again pushed the ball up the floor to Reeves who converted a dunk. Edwards collected two free-throws that brought the ‘Cats lead to 48-36. Mitchell found himself open for a three that he nailed, then Thiero found Reeves open for a three that pushed the ‘Cats in front 54-50 with 15:38-minutes to play. Sheppard, Dillingham and Burks checked back in for the ‘Cats for the first time of the second half following the timeout. After a quick scurry of points by the Tigers, Mitchell hit another three that brought the score to 59-48 Kentucky. Dillingham created his own shot and saw a mid-range jumper rattle around and fall. The score at the under12-minute timeout was 61-50 ‘Cats. Mitchell continued to contribute in the paint, scoring back-to-back buckets that pushed the score to 67-54 Kentucky. Dillingham followed a Mitchell three with his third athletic finish at the rim of the game. The score was 74-58 with 6:03-miuntes to play. Sheppard found Edwards from half-court with an accurate pass and alley-oop slam to get the crowd going at Rupp, and push the lead to 78-61 Kentucky. Thiero hit a layup as the ‘Cats had hit 5 of their last 6 FGs. The ‘Cats took a 80-63 lead at the final media timeout. Dillingham nailed his first three of the game as the ‘Cats led 85-67 with 3-minutes to go. Mitchell tacked on two more buckets to bring his total to a game-high 22-points. Kentucky defeated Georgetown College by a score of 92-69.
Final: Kentucky 92 – Georgetown 69
The ‘Cats finished the game shooting 49% from the field and 36% from 3PT – 8 of 22). The defense held Georgetown to 40% shooting and 19% from 3PT. The ‘Cats outrebounded the Tigers 46-32, with 16 offensive rebounds. Brooks-Harris led the Tigers in scoring with 21 points. Mitchell led all scorers with 22 points, adding 9 rebounds and 3 blocks in a team-high 33 minutes. Reeves added 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Dillingham mixed in 16 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Theiro was very active throughout the game, collecting 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in just 21 minutes. The team accumulated a 17:12 assist to turnover ratio, one in which the team will look to improve as the season ramps up. The team forced 18 turnovers and converted those into 23 points. The bench added 29 points. Calipari was clearly trying to get as many players involved early, as 8 players played 20 minutes or more in the game as the team looks to shape a more defined player rotation as the season goes on. Overall, it was a tale of two halves for the ‘Cats. The defense was much more active in the second half, creating more turnovers and transition opportunities for easy points. There were still some short periods of stagnant offense, but those will come with most teams. This team is primed to get better with every game as they continue to gel and work to get even more comfortable playing together and working to complement each other’s game.
The next chance for the team to continue to work out some kinks and for fans to catch the ‘Cats is next Thursday, November 2 when they take on the Kentucky State Thorobreds in their second and final exhibition game. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The game will be available on SEC +.