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The ‘Cats defeated the St. Joseph’s Hawks in a competitive game by a score of 96-88 in overtime. The ‘Cats often turned to hyped Freshman guard DJ Wagner in crunch time down the stretch, as Wagner went 7 of 8 from the free-throw line and consistently driving the ball and finishing at the rim. In addition to Wagner, the ‘Cats turned to veteran Forward Tre Mitchell, who contributed 9 of the ‘Cats 19 points in overtime. Fan-Favorite Reed Sheppard did not score a point in the game, and only took a single shot, but had one of the most prominent impacts in the game adding 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 5 steals with a team-high plus/minus total of +16 in 25 minutes of action. Three ‘Cats scored 20 or more points in the game in Mitchell (22 points), Wagner (22 points), and Reeves (20 points). The three players with over 20 points in a single game had not happened for the ‘Cats since 2009. The team continued its gang rebounding style, with 7 players collecting 3 or more rebounds and no player recording more than 6 rebounds in the game. The ‘Cats have to shore up their half-court defensive focus as it has shown as a weak point early in the season. On-ball defense was an issue throughout the second half with multiple drives and easy scores by the Hawks guards. The ‘Cats will welcome any of their three 7-footers to help aid Mitchell in the post, as the Hawks rotated two 7-foot players throughout the game. Rumors have swirled about Bradshaw returning to game action in the ‘Cats next game against Marshall on Friday, although that remains to be seen.

St. Joseph’s entered the game with a 3-1 record on the season with their lone loss coming in their last game against Texas A&M Commerce (L 57-54). The Hawks defeated Lafayette (W 81-60), Pennsylvania (W 69-61), and Stonehill (W 100-56). The Hawks play a quick pace and get the majority of their looks from beyond the arc, averaging a startling 31 3PT attempts a game. The Hawks scoring is led by Erik Reynolds II (14.3 PPG, 2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 41% 3PT) and Lynn Greer III (12 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5 APG, 63% 3PT). All rotational players on the Hawks roster can throw up and hit a three when called upon. While the team shoots a large number of threes, they don’t always fall, as the team is shooting just 32% from 3PT range as a team on the season.

Kentucky entered the game with a 3-1 record on the season. The ‘Cats were ranked No. 16 in the country on Mondays newly released AP Poll. Kentucky’s lone loss came in Chicago against the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (L 89-84). Their wins include New Mexico State (W 86-46), Texas A&M Commerce (W 81-61), and Stonehill (W 101-67). The ‘Cats have also began the season with a lighting fast style of play, with 4 players averaging double figures in scoring. The Kentucky offense is led by Antonio Reeves (17.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2 APG, 35% 3PT), Rob Dillingham (16.8 PPG, 4 RPG, 4.3 APG, 44% 3PT), Reed Sheppard (13.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 3 SPG, 71% 3PT), and Tre Mitchell (12.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 43% 3PT). Wagner and Edwards entered Monday’s matchup struggling to find their footing in the collegiate style of basketball. For the ‘Cats to reach their full potential, they will need one or both players to settle in as the season goes on.

The spread for Monday night’s matchup was -14.5 (Kentucky), with an Over/Under points total set at 151.5.

The starting lineup for the ‘Cats featured DJ Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Adou Thiero, and Tre Mitchell.

Game Recap:

First Half

St. Joseph’s started the game scoring with a corner three to take an early 3-0 lead. Edwards got fouled and went to the line. He hit both free-throws. The Hawks scored back-to-back shots at the rim to extend their lead to 7-2. Thiero drove down the middle of the paint and scored with an and-one opportunity. The ‘Cats drew within 2 at 7-5 after the free-throw. Sheppard and Dillingham checked in for Kentucky with 16:26-minutes remaining. Dillingham displayed his lightning quickness in a easy drive and score at the rim. St. Josephs led 9-7 at the first media timeout. Sheppard found a cutting Mitchell at the rim for a layup alley-oop. Sheppard created a steal but Dillingham quickly got it stripped back. Reeves went to the line and hit two free-throws to tie the game at 13 all. Thiero intercepted a transition pass and Reeves found Dillingham at the rim for an easy lay-in. Sheppard found Reeves running the floor after a made Hawks shot that resulted in another easy layup for the ‘Cats. The game was tied at 17 with 11:05-minutes to play in the half. Dillingham grabbed a long rebound and pulled up at the top of the key in transition for a three to give Kentucky a 20-17 lead. Dillingham hit another three, but the Hawks responded with a three of their own. Kentucky led 23-22 with 6:40-minutes to play. St. Joe’s tied the game at 24 before Mitchell found Wagner at the top of the key for an open three. The Hawks responded with a three, but Sheppard found Reeves for a corner three that pushed the score to 30-27 ‘Cats. Sheppard found Wagner who scored an easy layup at the rim. Mitchell found Reeves for another three off a missed shot and offensive rebound by Wagner. Kentucky extended their lead to 35-27. Kentucky led 35-29 with 2:15-minutes to play. The ‘Cats and the Hawks traded three-pointers the rest of the half with Edwards and Mitchell hitting shots for the ‘Cats. Kentucky led St. Joseph’s 41-38 at halftime.

Kentucky shot 48% from the field at the half and 54% (7 of 13) from three-point range. The defense held the Hawks to just 39% shooting and 35% (6 of 17) from beyond the arc. Reeves led the way with 13 first half points while Dillingham added 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Sheppard collected 4 assists and 3 steals in 13 minutes. Sheppard did not record a shot but finished the half with a plus/minus total of +13 in the half. Thiero led the team with 4 rebounds. The team committed 6 first half turnovers to 12 assists and created 6 steals in the half.

Halftime: Kentucky 41 – St. Joseph’s 38

Second Half

The second half began with a score from one of the Hawks 7-footers. Wagner picked up a loose ball and went coast-to-coast for a slam. Mitchell hit a three at the top of the key to give Kentucky a 46-40 lead. Reeves nailed a corner three after two missed free-throws by the Hawks. Kentucky led 49-40 with 17:18-minutes to play. Wagner found a slashing Thiero for an easy dunk after a St. Joseph’s three-pointer. The Hawks responded with another corner three. Wagner drove and scored at the rim through contact. Kentucky led 53-46 at the under 16-minute media timeout. Reeves hit a mid-range shot to push the lead to 9 at 55-46. The Hawks responded with back-to-back threes. St. Josephs hit another after a Mitchell free-throw to make the score 56-55 Kentucky. Mitchell converted a shot in the paint to make the score 58-55 ‘Cats heading into a timeout. Thiero hit a layup through contact but missed the and-one free-throw. Edwards responded to a St. Josephs layup with a no hesitation three. Kentucky led 63-57 at the under 8-minute media timeout. Edwards blocked a shot on the defensive end the Wagner converted an up-and-under layup. Reeves then answered a Hawks score. St. Joseph’s nailed a three the next trip down. Wagner split a double team and hit a mid-range jumper to make the score 69-62 ‘Cats. Edwards pulled up for a mid-range jumper and hit it. St. Joseph’s hit another three, their 13th of the game to narrow the score to 71-67 with 4:55-minutes to play. The ‘Cats had hit 4 of their last 5 shots, while the Hawks had hit their last 5 shots. The Hawks drove right down the middle of the Kentucky defense for an easy lay-in. Wagner drove and got fouled, with free-throws to follow after the under 4-minute media timeout. Wagner hit both free-throws to make the score 73-69 ‘Cats. Dillingham missed a transition opportunity that led to a Hawks score. Mitchell stole the pass on the next possession and then missed a three. St. Joseph’s tied the game at 73 with 2-minutes to play. Dillingham hit a mid-range jumper to give Kentucky the lead. Thiero then picked up a loose ball and got fouled. Thiero missed both free-throws. A jump ball gave the ball back to the Hawks. The Hawks missed a three but found the offensive rebound for a fresh 20-seconds. The Hawks called a timeout to draw up a play with 1-minute remaining and the score sitting at 75-73 Kentucky. The Hawks possession collapsed but they found an open shooter in Brown who nailed the go-ahead shot with 40-seconds to play. Kentucky called a timeout with 35-seconds to play with St. Joseph’s leading 76-75. Wagner missed a layup but Mitchell slammed home the miss for the ‘Cats lead, 77-76. Essandoko went to the line after a Mitchell foul. Essandoko hit 1 of 2 and the ’Cats couldn’t convert a scoring chance in the last seconds with a Wagner floater and loose ball. The game was tied at 77 and headed to overtime.

End of Regulation: Kentucky 77 – St. Joseph’s 77


Mitchell won the tip for Kentucky. Edwards missed a three. Dillingham checked in for Edwards after a foul. Wagner picked up a foul in the inbound pass. Mitchell hit a three at the top of the key for a 80-77 ‘Cats lead. Greer made a good move for an easy score. Mitchell responded with another made three off a Dillingham pass. Kentucky led 83-79 with 3:05-minutes to play in overtime. The ‘Cats again broke down defensively and allowed an easy score. The Hawks fouled Dillingham 40-feet from the basket. Dillingham hit 1 of 2 for a 84-81 Kentucky lead. Wagner went up for a clutch rebound and was fouled to head to the line for 2 shots. Wagner hit 1 of 2 at the line. Sheppard soared for another rebound. Wagner drove and converted with the shot-clock winding down. The Hawks nailed their 15th three to make the score 87-84 Kentucky. Mitchell was fouled and went to the line. Mitchell hit both free-throws for a 89-84 ‘Cats lead with 1-minute to play. Sheppard stole the ball but then gave it right back up and fouled the shooter at the rim to prevent an easy score. The Hawks hit both to make the score 89-86 with 41-seconds to play. Sheppard threw the ball three-fourths of the court to a sprinting Wagner who missed the transition layup but Edwards followed the miss with a putback slam to make the score 91-86 Kentucky with 37-seconds to play. The Hawks couldn’t get the three to fall and Mitchell was fouled on the rebound. Mitchell hit 1 of 2 for a 92-86 lead. Sheppard clinched the game with a steal on the next possession, much to the pleasure of the Rupp Arena crowd. Wagner was fouled and hit both free-throws for a 94-86 ‘Cats lead. Wagner hit the free-throws to end the game and give Kentucky a 96-88 win over St. Joseph’s. The ‘Cats hit 4 of their last 5 FGs in overtime on their way to the win.

Final: Kentucky 96 – St. Joseph’s 88

The ‘Cats executed down the stretch with Wagner and Mitchell often having the ball in their hands during crunch time. The duo combined for 16 of 19 points in overtime. The game was the best of Wagner’s young career, as he showed glimpses of his dawg mentality for the first time in a Kentucky uniform. Mitchell, the off-court team leader, found his stroke from beyond the arc as he hit 4 of 10 threes in the game, and 2 in the overtime period. The Hawks hit 15 out of an eye-opening 37 three-point attempts. The Kentucky defense did create havoc in passing lanes and created 12 steals in the game. Calipari turned to his Freshman in overtime, with Sheppard, Dillingham, Edwards, and Wagner all contributing in addition to the veteran presence in Mitchell. While fans might be concerned about the close game from a team that likely only your grandparents are familiar with in St. Joseph’s (prominent tournament runs in the 1950’s through the early 1980’s), the game will pay dividends in the future with the Hawks requiring the young ‘Cats to mature as the game came to a close. The ‘Cats found their go-to late game players in Wagner and Mitchell, and the close-game situation will be a helpful experience when the ‘Cats hit conference play later in the season.

Game Stats:

St. Joseph’s FG %: 43% (41% 3PT – 15 of 37) (75% FT – 9 of 12)

Kentucky FG %: 52% (48% 3PT – 12 of 25) (67% FT – 18 of 27)

Rebounds: 42 – 37 St. Joseph’s

Assist/Turnover Ratio: 24:9

Turnovers: UK (9), St. Joseph’s (14)

Bench Points: 17 – 13 St. Joseph’s

Points off Turnovers: 11 – 6 Kentucky

Fast Break Points: 28 – 11 Kentucky

Paint Points: 36 – 34 Kentucky

Player Stats:

Tre Mitchell – [(22 points) (6 rebounds) (4 assists) (1 steal) (4 blocks)]

DJ Wagner – [(22 points) (3 rebounds) (6 assists) (1 steal) (1 block)]

Antonio Reeves – [(20 points (5 rebounds) (3 assists) (1 block)]

Rob Dillingham – [(13 points) (5 rebounds) (6 assists) (1 steal)]

Justin Edwards – [(12 points) (3 rebounds) (1 assist) (1 steal) (1 block)]

Adou Thiero – [(7 points) (5 rebounds) (3 steals)]

Reed Sheppard – [(4 rebounds) (4 assists) (5 steals)]

Jordan Burks – [(1 rebound) (1 block)]

The next chance to catch the ‘Cats (4-1) on the court is Friday, November 24 when they take on the Marshall Thundering Herd (2-2) at Rupp Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.


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