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The No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats beat the No. 8 Miami Hurricanes in an entertaining home matchup by a score of 95-73 as a part of the new SEC/ACC challenge. The ‘Cats completely dominated most of the game outside of a 18-2 run by the Canes midway through the first half. The ‘Cats came out of the locker room running and outscored the Canes 53-37 in the second half. The night was starred by Freshman PG and Kentucky native Reed Sheppard, who orchestrated his way to a 21 point night with another full stat sheet. The ‘Cats did lose their starting PG in DJ Wagner late in the first half with a lower extremity injury. Initial thoughts after the game seem to be that Wagner will be alright, although the true extent of his injury is unknown. It’s clear that Kentucky has only one style of play, FAST! The ‘Cats lighting fast playing style continued on Tuesday night with the team scoring 95 points after averaging 94.4 PPG early on this season. Rupp Arena was the loudest it has been in years throughout the night during the Kentucky runs, with the crowd continuing to buzz throughout the timeouts and game. Another interesting note about this team is the unselfishness they display night in and night out. The ‘Cats collected 26 assists during the game to just 9 turnovers. The team never fails to make the extra pass that leads to a high percentage shot. After fumbling a prime opportunity in Chicago against then No. 1 Kansas, the ‘Cats were determined to not let another high-profile matchup slip through their fingers. The 22-point win still fails to represent how dominating the ‘Cats played throughout the game. The ’Cats look to continue their hot start as they trudge through non-conference play, with another exciting matchup against North Carolina on the horizon in a couple of weeks. The ‘Cats also look to add reinforcements in the form of Aaron Bradshaw sooner rather than later.

The Miami Hurricanes entered Tuesday nights matchup ranked No. 8 in the country in the latest AP poll. The Canes had recorded wins over NJIT (101-60), UCF (88-72), Florida International (86-80), Georgia (79-68), and Kansas State (91-83). The team is led by its guards in Wooga Poplar (18 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 59.4% 3PT), Matthew Cleveland (16.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 50% 3PT), Nigel Pack (16 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4 APG, 39.3% 3PT), and their post presence in Norchad Omier (15.8 PPG, 9 RPG, 2 APG, 30% 3PT). The team leads the country in three-point percentage at 45.8% 3PT.  

Kentucky entered the game ranked No. 12 in the AP Poll. The ‘Cats most recent win was a 118-82 win over Marshall. The ‘Cats scored 69 first half points in the game, a Rupp Arena record. The 118 points was a Calipari era record as well. The ‘Cats offense is led by Antonio Reeves (19 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 APG, 44.7% 3PT), Rob Dillingham (16 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.2 APG, 50% 3PT), Reed Sheppard (10.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 66.7% 3PT), and Tre Mitchell (15 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 38.1% 3PT). Kentucky is 3rd nationally in scoring with 94.3 PPG while also sporting a 50.6% field goal percentage. Their 42.5% 3PT shooting percentage is 4th in the country.

The Miami Hurricanes starting lineup included Nijel Pack, Wooga Poplar, Matthew Cleveland, Bensley Joseph, and Norchad Omier.

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

Game Recap:

First Half

Miami won the tip and hit a mid-range jumper to open the game scoring. Wagner missed his three but Edwards tracked it down and got an offensive board. The ‘Cats gathered another offensive rebound and Wagner drove the lane and drew a foul. Wagner hit both free-throws to tie the game at 2. The Hurricanes stole a pass and converted a transition mid-range jumper. Thiero drove the ball and powered to the bucket for a floater. Mitchell shifted his way to the bucket and scooped up a score. Mitchell was then called for a terrible defensive foul call by Pat Adams. Mithcell then drew an offensive charge on the next play, to the applause of the home crowd. Mitchell found Thiero for another floater to tie the game at 8. The ‘Cats ran down the floor and Reeves hit a floater for the lead. Poplar drove and finished with a powerful slam. The game was tied 10-10 at the first media timeout. The ‘Cats hit their last 4 shots and the Canes began the game 5 of 6 FGs. Dillingham and Sheppard were the first off the bench for Kentucky. Sheppard hit a three on his first possession in the game. Omier picked up his second foul with 14:25-minutes to play. Reeves hit both free-throw’s to give the ‘Cats a 15-10 lead. Thiero wrapped around for another lay-in. Dillingham stole a pass and Edwards went the distance for an and-one chance. The ‘Cats led 19-11 after the missed free-throw. Edwards finished a putback from Dillingham in transition for a 21-11 Kentucky lead with 11:35-minutes to play in the half. The ‘Cats went on an 11-1 run over the last 4-minutes of action. George hit a three in the corner for Miami. Poplar hit two free-throws to draw the Canes closer at 21-16. Wagner drove and finished at the rim for a score. Mitchell blocked a shot and Thiero turned the ball over in transition. Thiero turned it over again the next trip down the floor. Watson entered for Miami and immediately hit a three to narrow the lead to 23-21 Kentucky with 9:20-minutes left. Omier hit a three for Miami’s first lead since the opening minute. Cleveland responded with another three and Omier converted a dunk in transition for a 29-23 lead for the Canes. The Canes went on a 13-0 run in the course of just 2-minutes. Reeves ended the scoring run with a putback layup. Dillingham hit a long jumper for a score. Sheppard drove and scored a short jumper. Sheppard hit a three to make the score 33-32 Miami. Wagner got hurt on a drive to the basket and had to leave the game. The ‘Cats trailed 35-33 at the under 4-minute timeout. Mitchell hit 1 of 2 free-throws. Edwards drove and scored. Edwards split the defense and slammed home the Kentucky lead, 38-37. Sheppard blocked a three-point attempt and threw the outlet pass down the court to Reeves who converted at the rim in transition. The ‘Cats finished the first half scoring with a post move conversion and Kentucky took a 42-37 lead at the half.

Kentucky played the final 5-minutes of the half without Dillingham (2 fouls) and Wagner (injured). Kentucky finished the last 3 minutes of the half on a 8-0 run. The Canes shot 45% from the field and 36% (4 of 11) from 3PT. Kentucky shot 53% and just 20% (2 of 10) from 3PT. Edwards, Sheppard, and Reeves led the ‘Cats in scoring with 8 points each. Thiero chipped in 6 points and led the team with 5 rebounds. Mitchell led the team in passing with 4 assists. Wagner and Dillingham each only played 10 minutes each. It was a half of runs for both teams, with each team going on long scoreless run and the score swinging accordingly. Omier played just 9 minutes in the first half for the Canes due to 2 fouls. Poplar led all game scorers with 13 points. The whistle slowed the pace at times in the half, with 13 first half fouls being called in the midst of teams trying to find their rhythm. Kentucky had just 3 first half turnovers to 11 assists and created 3 steals.

Halftime: Kentucky 42 – Miami 37

Second Half

With Wagner injured, Sheppard started the second half in his place. The second half began with Reeves driving to the bucket for a score to give the ‘Cats a 44-37 lead. Mitchell posted up Omier and hit a fadeaway jumper. Reeves hit a wide-open corner three to make the score 49-39. Sheppard stole the ball and scored in transition at the rim. Kentucky led 51-39 with 17:56-minutes to play while on a 7-0 run over the last 1-minute of action. Miami turned the ball over out of the timeout. The ‘Cats turned it over themselves but regained possession on the other end and Mitchell found Thiero running the floor for an and-one opportunity. The ‘Cats led 54-39 after the free-throw. Sheppard curled around and hit a three. Kentucky led 57-43 at the under 16-minute media timeout. Reeves hit 1 of 2 free-throws. Mitchell found the rebound off the miss and Dillingham found Sheppard for a three. Rupp exploded. Reeves then drove the ball and dunked on the baseline to give Kentucky a 20-point lead at 63-43 with 14:54-minutes to play. The ‘Cats scored 21 points in the first 5-minutes of the second half. Dillingham then found a sprinting Edwards for a transition dunk. Dillingham crafted his way to a lay-in that spun in off the backboard. Kentucky led 67-43. Dillinham picked up 2 touch fouls by Pat Adams. Burks hit a layup with an and-one chance and hit the free-throw. Kentucky led 70-47 with 12:31-minutes to play. Sheppard pulled up from way beyond the arc and nailed a three for a 73-47 lead at the under 12-minute timeout. After a 4-point scurry by the Canes, Reeves drove and hit a floater. Dillingham found Mitchell for a wide-open three at the top of the key for a 78-53 lead. Dillingham nailed a off-balance three that pushed the score to 81-55 ‘Cats. The Kentucky ball movement created a open chance for Mitchell who got fouled. Mitchell hit both free throws for a 83-58 ‘Cats lead. The refs continued to take the air out of the ball midway through the half. Dillingham made an athletic move at the rim for a 86-60 ‘Cats lead. Dillingham then pulled up from the and nailed it for a 89-62 lead. Dillinham zipped a pass to a cutting Mitchell for a layup. Kentucky led 91-62 with 4:41-minutes to play. Miami scored back-to-back buckets to make the score 91-66 at the under 4-minute media timeout. Sheppard drove and made a crafty layup at the rim. Dillingham found Burks for a slam and a 95-68 lead. Kentucky went on to win the game by a score of 95-73.

Final: Kentucky 95 – Miami 73

The final score doesn’t accurately represent just how dominating the ‘Cats were in this game. The ‘Cats pulled away as the second half began and never looked back on their way to the eye-opening win. It was refreshing to see Kentucky comfortably win a high-profile game as the ‘Cats confidence continues to skyrocket with every game. The Kentucky defense held Miami to 44% shooting and just 26% (5 of 19) form three-point range. Kentucky shot 60% from the field and 43% (9 of 21) from downtown. Sheppard led the team in scoring with 21 points followed by Reeves with 18 points. Dillingham orchestrated the offense to numerous easy opportunities with a team high 9 assists. Mitchell also added 7 assists from the post position. Thiero led the team with 6 rebounds, but four other Kentucky players added 5 rebounds apiece. Kentucky ran their offense to a 26:8 assist to turnover ratio. Sheppard led the ‘Cats in plus/minus total with +35 in 30-minutes of action. The next closets ‘Cats were Mitchell and Reeves with +21 each.

Game Stats:

Miami FG %: 44% (26% 3PT – 5 of 19) (76% FT – 16 of 21)

Kentucky FG %: 60% (44% 3PT – 9 of 21) (71% FT – 12 of 17)

Rebounds: 35 – 29 Miami

Assist/Turnover Ratio: 26:8

Turnovers: UK (8), Miami (15)

Bench Points: 38 – 23 Kentucky

Points off Turnovers: 16 – 9 Kentucky

Fast Break Points: 23 – 7 Kentucky

Paint Points: 48 – 32 Kentucky

Player Stats:

Reed Sheppard – [(21 points) (5 rebounds) (4 assists) (3 steals) (1 block)]

Antonio Reeves – [(18 points (5 rebounds) (1 assist) (1 steal)]

Tre Mitchell – [(14 points) (5 rebounds) (7 assists) (1 steal) (2 blocks)]

Rob Dillingham – [(12 points) (5 rebounds) (9 assists) (2 steals)]

Justin Edwards – [(11 points) (3 rebounds) (2 steals)]

Adou Thiero – [(9 points) (6 rebounds) (3 assists) (1 block)]

Jordan Burks – [(5 points) (1 assist)]

DJ Wagner – [(5 points) (1 assist) (1 block)]*left game in first half with lower extremity injury

The ‘Cats’ next matchup is Saturday, December 2 against UNC Wilmington (5-1) at Rupp Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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