Men's Basketball
Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Illinois State

Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Illinois State

After taking a short break for the holidays, No. 8 Kentucky returns to the court on Friday night, facing Illinois State at Rupp Arena.

Just before the holiday break, Kentucky cruised past Louisville 95-76 at the KFC Yum! Center behind 30 points from super senior Antonio Reeves. Freshman Reed Sheppard had 11 points and 11 assists in that game and, on Monday, was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week for the second consecutive time.

Reeves will see his former team on Friday night when the Cats and the Redbirds get together. Reeves played his first three collegiate seasons at ISU, scoring 1,195 points in an Illinois State uniform.

Kentucky (9-2) has now won three games in a row. In addition to beating Louisville, the Cats held off then-No. 9 North Carolina 87-83 and topped Penn 81-66.

UK has five players averaging double figures in scoring this season. Reeves leads the way, scoring 18.3 points per game. Freshman guard Rob Dillingham scores 14.2 points per outing, while forward Tre Mitchell averages 13.2 points per contest. Sheppard scores 12.6 points per game while fellow freshman D.J. Wagner posts 11.7 points per outing.

Illinois State is 8-4 this season and has won its last two games. On Dec. 21, the Redbirds beat Southeast Missouri State 85-64. Four days prior to that, Illinois State topped North Dakota State 75-65.

Darius Burford leads Illinois State in scoring at 13.7 points per game. Dalton Banks is the only other ISU player averaging in double figures. He scores 10.9 points per contest.

Tipoff for Friday’s game is set for 7 p.m. and the contest can be seen on the SEC Network.

Last Time Out: Louisville Recap

Antonio Reeves scored 30 points, including 22 in the first half, as No. 9 Kentucky breezed past archrival Louisville 95-76 Dec. 21 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

Reeves became just the fourth UK player to score at least 30 points against Louisville, joining Derrick Miller (34 in 1988), Kenny Walker (32 in 1984) and Tony Delk (30 in 1995).

The super senior had plenty of support from his teammates. Tre Mitchell had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Cats, while Reed Sheppard had 11 points and a career-high 11 assists. That set the mark for most assists by any player in a Kentucky-Louisville game.

Justin Edwards had a nice second half and finished with 13 points, while Rob Dillingham had 12.

Kentucky (9-2) made 35 of 68 (51.5 percent) from the floor for the game, including 12 of 25 (48.0 percent) from behind the arc. Louisville made 25 of 59 (42.4 percent) from the field, including just 4 of 17 (23.5 percent) from 3-point range.

The Cats won the rebounding battle 37-35 and held advantages in second-chance points (15-10), bench points (30-15), points in the paint (40-26) and fast break points (11-2).

Louisville took the lead early, scoring the game’s first five points. UK went 3:30 before scoring on a pair of Rob Dillingham free throws. Kentucky’s first basket came when Reeves hit a three on the next possession to tie the game at 5-5.

The game would be tied three more times before Kentucky went on a 15-1 run to take a 31-18 lead with 8:20 left in the half, forcing a Louisville timeout.

The Cats would lead by 14 points, 36-22, on a Tre Mitchell three but the Cards would not go away. Louisville assembled an 8-3 run to get within single digits, 39-30, with 4:11 left in the half.

Louisville got one point closer, 39-31, before Kentucky closed the half with a flourish. The Cats went on a 14-2 run, sparked by eight points from Reeves. The Cats took a 53-33 lead into the break, sparked by 22 points from Reeves, who made 9 of 10 from the floor, including all four of his 3-point shots, in the first 20 minutes.

The onslaught continued early in the second half. Kentucky scored the first five points and went on a 9-3 run to lead 62-36. But Louisville scored the next seven to cut the UK lead to 62-43 with 14:57 to play.

The Winner is … Reed Sheppard (again)

The Wildcats garnered their fourth Southeastern Conference weekly award on Dec. 26 when Reed Sheppard was tabbed the league’s top-performing freshman for the second time this season. Sheppard logged 11 points and a career-high 11 assists in the win over Louisville for his first double-double. The 11 assists were the most for any UK player in the series’ history.

Kentucky has dominated the weekly SEC awards with John Calipari at the helm. UK has won more weekly SEC honors (128) than any other school during the Calipari era, including 97 SEC Freshman of the Week awards and 31 SEC Player of the Week honors.

Additional honors this season:

• Sheppard was the Freshman of the Week on Dec. 4 after he averaged 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game against No. 8 Miami and UNC Wilmington
• D.J. Wagner was the Freshman of the Week on Nov. 27 after averaging 25.0 points and 5.5 assists per game in an overtime win over Saint Joseph’s and a record-breaking victory over Marshall. He earned the honor again on Dec. 18 after producing 14 points, a season-high six rebounds and five assists in a gamehigh 35 minutes in the upset of No. 9 North Carolina.

Related Stories

View all