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11-24-23 Rupp Arena

The ‘Cats must have not gotten enough turkey dinner yesterday during Thanksgiving, as they feasted on the Thundering Herd defense throughout the night on their way to a 118-82 win at Rupp Arena. Keeping with the thankful and giving season, the ‘Cats dished out 27 assists to just 9 turnovers in the game. The team consistently displays excellent ball movement, never hesitating to make the extra pass to a teammate for a higher-percentage shot. Kentucky scored 69 first half points, the most ever in the Rupp Arena venue and the 4th highest total in a single half in school history. The 118 total points were the highest total in the Calipari era for a game. Kentucky fans filled Rupp Arena on Friday night with the best home crowd of the season prior to the big early season home game next Tuesday when the ‘Cats take on the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes. The ‘Cats will look to continue their momentum into that ACC/SEC matchup.

Marshall entered the game just 2-3 on the young season with wins over Queens University (89-73) and Florida International (80-69) and losses to Radford (66-62), Utah State (83-60), and Oakland (78-71). The Thundering Herd are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country with a 24.6% 3PT shooting percentage. Marshalls team is led by Kevon Voyles (15.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.4 APG), Obinna Anochili-Killen (13 PPG, 5 RPG, 0.5 APG), and Nate Martin (13 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1 APG).

The ’Cats entered Fridays matchup 4-1 on the season with wins over New Mexico State (86-46), Texas A&M Commerce (81-61), Stonehill (101-67), and St. Joseph’s (96-88 OT). Their lone loss came in a matchup with the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks in the Champions Classic in Chicago by a score of 89-84. The ‘Cats early week game against St. Joseph’s gave them a nice early season test as the ‘Cats saw that game go into OT in part thanks to the Hawks hot shooting display (15 of 37 3PT). DJ Wagner had his best game of his young career with 22 points in the game. Mitchell and Wagner combined for 16 of 19 OT points in the game, helping the ‘Cats to the win. The ‘Cats are led by Antonio Reeves (18.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 40% 3PT), Rob Dillingham (16 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 46.2% 3PT), Tre Mitchell (14.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 41.2% 3PT), and Reed Sheppard (10.6 PPG, 3 RPG, 3 APG, 66.7% 3PT). Six Kentucky players are averaging double figures in scoring on the season. The ‘Cats have played well to begin the season and look to continue their fast-paced offensive style into upcoming competitive matchups.

The spread for Friday night’s matchup against Marshall was -18.5 (UK), with an Over/Under points total set at 157.5.

The ‘Cats continued with their starting lineup of DJ Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Adou Thiero, and Tre Mitchell.

Game Recap:

First Half

The ‘Cats won the tip and Mitchell scored the first points of the game on a three-pointer at the top of the key after two offensive rebounds from Kentucky. Marshall responded with a layup and then a three of their own to take the lead at 5-3. Thiero fought for a loose ball on an offensive rebound and found an open Edwards who got fouled at the rim. Edwards made 1 of 2 free-throws. Thiero then made an outstanding defensive play with a block turning into a jump ball. Wagner scored on a goaltending call. Reeves found a loose ball and took it the distance in transition for an easy score. Dillingham and Sheppard were the first ‘Cats off the bench, per usual. Dillingham zipped down the court, nearly out of control, but found Reeves in the corner for a three. Kentucky led 11-5 at the first media timeout. Sheppard stripped a steal and Dillingham found Mitchell on a no-look pass for an easy score. Marshall responded with a three on the other end. Sheppard stole another ball and was fouled at the rim in transition. Sheppard hit both free-throws. Marshall hit back-to-back three to narrow the score to 15-14 ‘Cats and force a timeout from Coach Calipari. Mitchell scored on a strong move in the paint. Sheppard threw the ball the length of the court to find Wagner for an easy transition layup to push the score to 19-14 Kentucky. The ‘Cats then finished off a 6-0 run over the course of 1-minute of game action with a Dillingham assist to Wagner. Dillingham dished a touch pass to a wide-open Edwards in the corner for a three to make the score 24-14 ‘Cats with 12-minutes to play. Marshall went to their 2-3 zone and the ‘Cats broke it with a Mitchell open floater. Edwards nailed a three off a Mitchell dish for a 29-16 Kentucky lead. Thiero again broke the middle of the zone with a mid-range jumper. Dillingham and Sheppard traded passes that resulted in a wide-open Dillingham three that he drained for a 38-19 ‘Cats lead with 7:42-minutes to play in the first half. Marshall was 1 for their last 10 FG during this stretch of the first half. Sheppard angled a driving layup into the basket with the shot-clock winding down. Thiero corralled an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Reeves for a three. Reeves then let one fly from way downtown and nailed it for a 46-24 ‘Cats lead. Dillingham created his own shot with a long two-point jumper. Sheppard fonid Mitchell on a nice pass to the paint for an easy lay-in. Dillingham lost his defender on his way to the rim for a score. Edwards hit another three as the ‘Cats were 8 of 11 from beyond the arc to this point in the game. The ‘Cats led 55-30 at the under 4-minute media timeout. Mitchell powered through his defender for an and-one opportunity. He hit the free-throw for a 58-30 lead. The ‘Cats converted all 7 of their last shots. Marshall had hit their last 5 shots. Kentucky led 62-39 after a short run by the Thundering Hurd. Wagner rolled in a layup through contact for an and-one. The ‘Cats stole another pass and Reeves scored in transition. Kentucky led 69-41 at halftime.

Kentucky finished the first half hitting 9 of their last 10 shots. The ‘Cats shot an absurd 65% from the floor and 73% (8 of 11) from 3PT against Marshalls sporadic zone defense. Kentucky’s defense held the Thundering Herd to 41% shooting in the half and 38% (6 of 16) from 3PT. Four Kentucky players scored in double-figures in the first half. Reeves led the ‘Cats in first half scoring with 15 points. Mitchell added 14 points, Wagner had 13 points, and Edwards mixed in 10 points. Dillingham found himself over halfway to a triple-double with a stat line of 9 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in the half. Sheppard also stuffed the stat line with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals and had the highest plus/minus total of +23 in 15-minutes. The ‘Cats committed just 4 first half turnovers to 18 assists and created 6 steals in the first half. The 69 first half points were the 4th highest total in a half in school history and the most points ever scored in a half at Rupp Arena.

Halftime: Kentucky 69 – Marshall 41

Second Half

Kentucky scored the first points of the second half with a Mitchell layup. Wagner then hit a step-back jumper for a 73-41 ‘Cats lead. Wagner again drove straight to the rim for another athletic score. Mitchell found his own miss and tapped it back in and Wagner hit a three on the next trip down to give the ‘Cats a 80-46 lead. Wagner went coast-to-coast for another score, keeping the blazing pace to the game. Kentucky led Marshall 82-50 at the first media timeout of the second half. Wagner hit 1 of 2 free-throws at the line to give him 23 points on the game. Dillingham hit a three-pointer and drew the foul for a chance at a 4-point play. Kentucky led 90-53. Dillingham crafted his way to two more easy scores and a 98-61 ‘Cats lead with 9-minutes to play. Sheppard pushed the ‘Cats into triple digits with a mid-range jumper. Kentucky took a 100-65 lead into the under 8-minute media timeout. Wagner hit another three for the ‘Cats, giving him 28 points in the game. The ‘Cats continued to pass out of Marshalls zone and found Sheppard for a wide-open three. Kentucky led 106-71 with 6:29-minutes to play. Wagner drove and kicked out a pass to Reeves for another three for Kentucky. The ‘Cats again displayed unselfish basketball, always adding the extra pass to the open guy, this time Dillingham found Reeves for another corner three and a 112-71 lead. Kentucky took a 112-75 lead into the under 4-minute media timeout. Sheppard pulled up from three-point range and hit his shot. Hart finished the scoring for the ‘Cats with a three in the final minute. Kentucky defeated Marshall by a score of 118-82.

Final: Kentucky 118 – Marshall 82

The ‘Cats offense was hot from start to finish. Setting a Rupp Arena record with 69 first half points and a Calipari era record 118 points in the game. It was a well-rounded game from every Kentucky player, with 6 players scoring in double-figures and the team collecting 27 assists in the game with their unselfish style of play. Marshall mixed in a zone defense for the majority of the game, and the ‘Cats took full advantage as they connected on 16 of their 27 3PT attempts in the game. It is the first time since 1989 that a Kentucky team has made 12 or more three-pointers in four consecutive games. The ‘Cats defense did yield 82 points to a questionable offensive Marshall team, but they remained active with their hands and in passing lanes on their way to 11 steals in the game and causing 16 turnovers. It was Wagner’s best game of his young career as he collected 28 points in the game and is coming into his own with his confidence continuing to skyrocket. Dillingham registered the highest plus/minus total in the game for the ‘Cats with +30 in 24-minutes. In total, Kentucky had 5 players with plus/minus totals of +25 or higher.  All three of Kentucky’s Freshman guards are playing well heading into a tough matchup with Miami next week. The ‘Cats are also looking at getting one of their big men back sooner rather than later with Freshman Center Aaron Bradshaw returning to practice earlier this week. It is unlikely he will be available next week but he is close to returning to game action.

Game Stats:

Marshall FG %: 42% (35% 3PT – 9 of 26) (65% FT – 15 of 23)

Kentucky FG %: 61% (59% 3PT – 16 of 27) (80% FT – 12 of 15)

Rebounds: 38 – 37 Marshall

Assist/Turnover Ratio: 27:9

Turnovers: UK (9), Marshall (16)

Bench Points: 33 – 14 Kentucky

Points off Turnovers: 22 – 8 Kentucky

Fast Break Points: 16 – 2 Kentucky

Paint Points: 48 – 28 Kentucky

Player Stats:

DJ Wagner – [(28 points) (1 rebound) (5 assists) (3 steals) (1 block)]

Antonio Reeves – [(23 points (4 rebounds) (1 assist)]

Tre Mitchell – [(18 points) (4 rebounds) (4 assists) (1 steal) (1 block)]

Rob Dillingham – [(16 points) (5 rebounds) (8 assists) (1 steal)]

Reed Sheppard – [(12 rebounds) (7 rebounds) (6 assists) (2 steals)]

Justin Edwards – [(10 points) (2 rebounds) (1 steal) (1 block)]

Adou Thiero – [(6 points) (7 rebounds) (2 assists) (2 steals) (2 blocks)]

Joey Hart – [(3 points)]

Jordan Burks – [(2 points) (5 rebounds)]

Kareem Watkins – [(1 assist)]

The ‘Cats next game is next Tuesday, November 28 against the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes (5-0) in Rupp Arena. The game is a part of the new SEC/ACC challenge. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on ESPN.

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