Big Second Half Leads Cats Past Bahamas National Select Team
NASSAU, Bahamas – After winning three consecutive games in blowout fashion, Kentucky was finally tested during its tour of the Bahamas this week. With a big second half, the Cats passed that test and will have a happy flight home.
After leading by just one point at the half, Kentucky outscored the Bahamas National Select Team by 23 in the second half to win 98-74 on Sunday at Baha Mar Resort.
With the win, the Cats completed a four-game sweep of four games over the course of five days in the Bahamas.
Antonio Reeves led the Cats with 22 points on Sunday. Sahvir Wheeler had 21 points, four assists and two steals, while Jacob Toppin had 20 points, five rebounds and two steals.
Defending national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Kentucky fell behind 3-0 on a three by Jaraun Kino Burrows, marking one of the few times the Cats have trailed all week. But UK answered by scoring the next eight, on a runner by Wheeler, a dunk by Tshiebwe, a Daimion Collins layup and a Wheeler layup, to lead 8-3.
The Bahamian team would stay close, scoring six of the next eight points to cut UK’s lead to 10-9 with 14:37 left in the first half. Kentucky would get a pair of Wheeler free throws and a Chris Livingston three before the Bahamas scored five in a row to get within one again, at 15-14.
After a Toppin layup, the Bahamian team would get a three from Dominick Bridgewater to tie the game at 17-17. The game would remain tight, with ties at 19-19, 21-21 and 23-23.
The Bahamian team would take the lead, 26-23, on a dunk and free throw by Kadeem Colby with 8:15 left in the half. After another Wheeler free throw, the Bahamas would score six in a row to grab a 32-24 lead with 5:31 to play in the first half, forcing a Kentucky timeout.
Kentucky would stop the run on a Toppin jumper, but Kino Burrows answered with a layup for the Bahamas, making it 34-26 with 4:34 remaining in the half.
From there, the Cats would respond, with defense leading to offense on more than one occasion. UK got a pair of Reeves free throws, a basket by Toppin, a free throw from Toppin, then fast break layups by Wheeler and Reeves and two more Reeves free throws. Those 11 consecutive points gave the Cats a 37-34 advantage with 1:26 to play in the half.
The Bahamas would answer by scoring six of the next eight to lead 40-39 with eight seconds left in the half. But with time winding down, Wheeler raced down the court and converted a layup as the horn sounded, giving UK a 41-40 advantage at the break.
Kentucky started the second half with a 7-2 run, with Wheeler and Livingston converting layups and Toppin hitting a three as the Cats took a 48-42 lead. After a Bahamas basket, UK got a Tshiebwe layup and a three from Cason Wallace to take a 53-44 advantage with 16:43 to play.
The game remained close until Reeves caught fire from long range. With the Cats leading 56-52, Reeves hit a three. About 90 seconds later, he hit another, giving UK a 64-57 advantage.
After the Bahamas cut it to 64-59, Reeves hit another three, then 34 seconds later, he hit another one, giving UK it’s biggest lead, 70-59, with 11:09 left in the game.
The Bahamas would get a basket to get back with single digits, but the Cats answered with another run. This one, sparked by a Collins dunk off a Wheeler lob, was of the 8-2 variety and gave UK a 78-63 lead with 8:04 remaining.
Kentucky would continue to stretch the lead, with the final score being the largest margin in the game.