No. 16 Kentucky Rolls Past New Mexico State in Season Opener
The bad news for No. 16 Kentucky on Monday night was that the Cats struggled to shoot the ball in the first half. UK made just 12 of 31 (38.7 percent) of its shots in the first half.
The good news was that the Kentucky defense smothered New Mexico State, allowing the Aggies to make just 10 of 31 (32.3 percent) from the field in the first 20 minutes. Kentucky also forced six NMSU turnovers and converted those into nine points. All of that led to a 37-29 Kentucky lead at the break.
Eventually, the Cats took control and won the 2023-24 season opener 86-46 inside Rupp Arena. Kentucky scored the first six points of the second half and New Mexico State never got back within single digits. UK outscored NMSU 49-17 in the second half.
UK head coach John Calipari liked how his team, especially his young guards, played defense on Monday night.
“D.J. (Wagner) played good defense too. He just wasn’t as disruptive,” Calipari said. “Reed (Sheppard) and Robert (Dillingham), you have three guards who can guard the ball, that’s a really good sign. Because if you can’t guard the ball, you can’t play. Your defense is done before you start. We guarded the ball pretty good but those two (Sheppard and Dillingham) are really disruptive.
Kentucky had five players in double figures, led by Dillingham, who had 17 points. The freshman added five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Wagner had 13 points and four assists, while freshman Justin Edwards had 12 points, five rebounds and two steals. Fellow freshman and Kentucky native Sheppard had 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals in his first official game in Rupp Arena. Tre Mitchell came up just short of a double double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Kentucky blew the game open at the end, scoring the last 17 points and ending the game on a 21-2 run.
New Mexico State was led in scoring by Jaylin Jackson-Posey and Christian Cook, who each had 10 points.
Kentucky returns to action on Friday, hosting Texas A&M-Commerce at Rupp Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network Plus.