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The ‘Cats took on the Kentucky State Thorobreds in their second and final exhibition game before the regular season tips off in under a week. Kentucky defeated the Thorobreds 99-53 on a Thursday night in Rupp Arena. While the crowd was light, energy picked up after exciting runs and plays throughout the game. The ‘Cats got off to somewhat of a slow start in the game as they found their footing. The first half included two separate 13-0 runs on offense that propelled them to a large 50-20 lead at the half. This game likely won’t tell fans a lot about the team due to the opponent, but it was still a great opportunity for the team to continue to gel and play together. With the regular season following this game, the ‘Cats took full advantage of getting into a game flow throughout the game. Calipari also continued to shape player rotations and minutes in preparation for the season. The ‘Cats are still without any of its three 7-footers. Zvonimir Ivisic continues to sit out due to eligibility issues, while Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso are out indefinitely with foot injuries. For Kentucky State, they enter the season after going 15-13 a year ago. Kentucky defeated Kentucky State 111-53 last year in a pre-season exhibition game. Kentucky defeated Georgetown last Friday in their first exhibition game by a score of 92-69 in a competitive game. Keys to the game for the ‘Cats included getting into a consistent offensive flow with Dillingham and Wagner running the offense, the Freshman impact (Edwards/Dillingham/Wagner/Sheppard/Burks), Mitchell’s presence in the post and on the perimeter and team three-point shooting.
The starting lineup for Kentucky featured DJ Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Adou Thiero, and Tre Mitchell.
Kentucky State won the tip and lost the ball out of bounds on their first possession. Edwards scored the first points of the game on a putback opportunity. Kentucky State hit a three-pointer for their first points of the game to take an early 3-2 lead. Edwards quickly responded with an easy layup with a pass from Mitchell. Edwards scored the 6th straight point for the ‘Cats but the Thorobreds responded with another 3 to tie the game at 6. Edwards converted a transition dunk off of a backboard assist from Reeves to extend the Kentucky lead to 12-6. Kentucky State made an and-one chance to force the first media timeout and narrow the lead to 12-9 ‘Cats. Edwards scored 10 of the first 12 Kentucky points (all 12 points in the paint). Dillingham and Sheppard were again the first off the bench for Coach Calipari. Wagner hit a curling layup to extend the lead to 14-9. Dillingham found a running Wagner at the rim from beyond the three-point line for an easy bucket. Dillingham them converted a layup of his own to push the lead to 20-9 with 13-minutes left in the first half. Dillingham swung the ball to an open Wagner for the first Kentucky three of the game. The ‘Cats led 23-9 at the under 12-minute media timeout. A Thorobred layup ended a 13-0 Kentucky run and brought the score to 25-11. Mitchell hit a mid-range baseline jumper that pushed the score to 31-14 with 7:58-minutes to play. Dillingham found a cutting Thiero in the middle of the lane for an and-one chance. Thiero hit the free-throw to push the ‘Cats lead to 34-14. Mitchell found Wagner for another open three out of a trap. Thiero stole a Thorobreds pass and slammed in a hard dunk to extend the lead to 39-14 with 6-minutes to play. Reeves hit his first three-pointer of the game to propel the ‘Cats 13-0 run. Kentucky State finally ended the run with a mid-range jumper. Wagner drove the lane for a powerful athletic dunk. Dillingham drove the baseline through contact to finish a lay-in. The ‘Cats led 46-16 with 3:15-minutes remaining in the half. Sheppard displayed amazing court vision in a find to Burks for an open dunk. Reeves hit two free-throws to end the first half scoring for Kentucky. The ‘Cats led 50-20 at halftime. Wagner led the way with 12-points and 3-assists in a team-high 17-minutes. Edwards added 10-points and 6-rebounds, while Mitchel mixed in 6-points, 6-rebounds, and 4-assists.
Halftime: Kentucky 50 – Kentucky State 20
Kentucky began the second half with their starting lineup of Wagner, Reeves, Edwards, Thiero, and Mitchell. Kentucky State scored the first point of the second half. Reeves found Edwards for a slam for Kentucky’s first points. Reeves hit the first three of the second half off of a transition find to push the ‘Cats lead to 55-22. Reeves responded with an even deeper three on the next possession. Mitchell nailed a three at the top of the key for the third ‘Cats three-pointer early in the second half. Mitchell hit a second three in the same location to extend the lead to 43 at 65-22. Mitchell hit the third consecutive three of a Reeves assist. Mitchell attempted his fourth three in a row but misfired, Thiero found the offensive rebound and got fouled on the putback. The ‘Cats led 68-26 with 14:06-minutes to play. Dillingham was again the first player off the bench for the ‘Cats in the second half. Edwards hit his first three of the game to push the lead to 75-28 with 12-minutes to play in the game. Sheppard drove to the pain and hit a mid-range floater for his first points of the game. Dillingham drove the lane for a bucket, then Burks followed with a bucket of his own. Joey Hart checked into the game for the first time at the 9-minute mark. Kentucky led 84-38 at the under 8-minute media timeout. Edwards took a rebound coast-to-coast for an easy lay-in. Sheppard responded to a Kentucky State three with a mid-range bucket that brought the score to 90-41. Reeves nailed a transition three to give him 20-points on the night. The score was 95-43 with 3:37-minutes to go. Canada checked in at the timeout to play the remaining minutes. The walk-ons (Watkins, Darbyshire, Horn) checked in with 3-minutes to play. Canada found a Burks miss for a putback and got fouled. Canada hit both free-throws to put the ‘Cats ahead 97-43. Horn found a driving Burks for a slam. Kentucky State finished the scoring with 2 free-throws and a steal and score. Kentucky defeated Kentucky State by a score of 99-53.
Final: Kentucky 99 – Kentucky 53
The offense was firing on all cylinders on Thursday night. While Kentucky State had questionable decisions with shot taking throughout the game, the Kentucky defense held them to 30% shooting from the field and just 23% from 3PT. On the other side, the ‘Cats shot 56% from the field and 40% from 3PT (10 of 25). The ‘Cats outrebounded the Thorobreds 46-33 with 8 offensive boards. All 5 starters finished the game in double figures scoring for Kentucky. Reeves led the team in scoring with 20-points (3-rebounds, 4-assists), while Edwards followed with a line of 17-points and 9-rebounds (scored 10 of the first 12 points of the game). Mitchell filled his stat-sheet with 15-points, 10-rebounds and 4-assists collecting a double-double in his effort. Kentucky’s point guards played well, Wagner scored 12-points and added a team-high 7-assists and Dillingham posted 8-points and 6-assists. Thiero added a strong 13-points and 8-rebounds in just 20-minutes of game action. Mitchell led the team in plus/minus with + 51 in 28-minutes. The team forced 13 turnovers on 11 steals while committing just 6 in the game. The first Kentucky turnover came midway through the second half. The team posted a 25:6 Assist to Turnover ratio. Six players played over 20 minutes in the game and 8 players played over 20 minutes.
The next chance to watch the ‘Cats is next Monday, November 6 when they take on the New Mexico State Aggies. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.