Cats Place Five in Double Figures in Win Over Texas A&M-Commerce
No. 16 Kentucky faced little adversity in its season-opening win over New Mexico State on Monday night. The Cats cruised to a 40-point win after breaking free in the second half.
Friday’s game against Texas A&M-Commerce was different. The Lions came out hot, making seven of their first 10 shots, including five from beyond the arc. It all added up to a 19-6 lead for Texas A&M Commerce less than seven minutes into the game.
The Cats would eventually right the ship, going on an 11-1 run to take the lead for the first time, 25-24, with 7:41 left in the first half and the Cats would lead 38-30 at the break.
Kentucky (2-0) would go on to win 81-61, using another big second half to blow open a game that was close at the half.
UK head coach John Calipari thought that, long term, falling behind in this game could be beneficial.
“Loved it,” Calipari said. “Now, you have to understand that they had played two games and they were shooting from the three, 20 percent, 21 percent, whatever. I said it doesn’t matter, they’re playing us, they will come out and make threes. And that’s why, in huddles, I was saying we needed to string some plays together.”
What, specifically, were the Lions doing to the Cats?
“The problem we had was we were getting beat on the dribble,” Calipari said. “We had guys who are supposed to be able to play the ball and they got by us.”
Antonio Reeves led all scorers with 21 points, leading five Cats in double figures. Tre Mitchell had 18 points, eight rebounds and three steals, while Justin Edwards had 16 points and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Rob Dillingham had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists while fellow freshman D.J. Wagner had 11 points. But Calipari was also impressed with a player who scored just three.
“We had five guys in double figures. And I love it when, the guy who was the best in plus/minus couldn’t make a basket,” Calipari said. “Made one with, what, two minutes to go. Reed (Sheppard). He was like plus-23, 24. He’s in the game, you just play better. That’s why he’s got to be on the floor.”
Calipari also liked how the Cats took care of the basketball.
“Would you say we played pretty fast? And we only had three turnovers,” Calipari said. “How do you finish with just three turnovers? That’s ridiculous.”
The Cats were again without big men Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonimir Ivisic and Ugonna Onyenso. In addition, Adou Thiero was also not available on Friday.
Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday night, facing top-ranked Kansas in the Champions Classic in Chicago. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 9:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on ESPN.