Kentucky Downs Eastern Michigan, Earns 500th Rupp Arena Win
Nov. 27, 2013
Two days after escaping Cleveland State with a late rally, the Wildcats (6-1) was more methodical in improving to 500-62 lifetime in the 37-year-old home named for legendary coach Adolph Rupp. Leading just 35-32 at halftime, Kentucky steadily built it to double digits with 12:52 left and led by as many as 21 with 2:39 remaining.
Kentucky controlled the glass, outrebounding the Eagles 52-33 including 19 offensive and scoring 23 second-chance points.
Julius Randle helped with all 14 points and nine of his 10 rebounds coming after halftime in posting his seventh double-double. Cauley-Stein had eight rebounds and tied a career high with seven blocks.
Dakari Johnson added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats.
Kentucky also held EMU (5-1) to 24-of-66 shooting (36 percent) in dealing the Eagles their first loss.
Darell Combs' 23 points led Eastern Michigan, which got just seven combined points from leading scorer Karrington Ward and guard Raven Lee, both of whom entered the game averaging 18 points per contest.
When the teams first played in January, Kentucky laid a 90-38 beating on the Eagles with a squad less talented than this year's group. But EMU returned much improved as well thanks to Lee - who dropped a career-high 38 points on UT Arlington last Saturday - Ward and reserve forward Glenn Bryant (12.3 points per game).
The combination has helped lead the Eagles' first 5-0 start since the 1996-97 season and provided another nonconference opponent that Kentucky had to take seriously. Then again, the Wildcats couldn't afford to look past anybody after coming within 7:41 of their second defeat Monday night against Cleveland State before rallying down the stretch for a 68-61 escape.
Leading Kentucky's 24-7 closing run was freshman point guard Andrew Harrison, who posted two three-point plays with many of his five assists during that stretch. Any concerns that Calipari had because of his team's play during the first 33-plus minutes of that game gave way to happiness over his gifted roster's response to adversity.
The coach hoped that they avoided positioning themselves to have to make that type of rally, which the Wildcats delivered in the first half against the Eagles.
Kentucky started slow again but only for several minutes thanks to Aaron Harrison, who scored five straight points for a 12-10 lead that grew to 29-19 with 4:41 left in the half. Despite a silent half from Randle (one rebound, two fouls) Kentucky played fairly solid in shooting 44 percent and outrebounding the Eagles 21-16.
But the Wildcats led just 35-32 at the break because Eastern Michigan didn't waver, closing with a 13-6 run including a 3-pointer by Combs. Randle's first basket provided a 40-34 lead coming out of the break and Kentucky slowly built on it from there.
Andrew Harrison finished with eight points for Kentucky.