Men's Basketball
Kentucky Falls to Gonzaga on Saturday

Kentucky Falls to Gonzaga on Saturday

by Tim Letcher

Reed Sheppard scored 21 points, all in the second half, but No. 17/15 Kentucky fell to Gonzaga 89-85 at Rupp Arena on Saturday.

Antonio Reeves scored 17 points and Adou Thiero had 15 for the Cats, who rallied from a double-digit deficit to take a second-half lead, only to see Gonzaga take the game away late.

Kentucky (16-7) scored first on an Edwards drive to the basket, but Gonzaga scored the next seven points to grab an early five-point lead. After a Thiero dunk cut the UK deficit to three, the Zags scored four consecutive points to lead 11-4, forcing an early Kentucky timeout.

The Zags would maintain a lead of between five and seven points over the next four minutes until a Reeves layup got the Cats within three, 18-15. However, Gonzaga’s Nolan Hickman drilled a three on the next possession and the Zags led 21-15 with 12:25 left in the half.

Kentucky would get within four, 21-17, on a Reeves basket but the Zags again answered, scoring four in a row to lead 25-17. A Zvonimir Ivisic three-pointer cut the deficit to five, 25-20. After a Gonzaga basket, Rob Dillingham hit a three from the left wing to make it 27-23 with 6:05 remaining in the half.

A pair of Jordan Burks free throws got UK within two, 27-25, then the teams traded baskets to make it 29-27. However, the Zags would then go on a 13-2 run to lead 42-29 with under a minute to play in the first half. A Dillingham three concluded the first half scoring, a half that saw Gonzaga leading 42-32.

Gonzaga scored the first two points of the second half before UK got a three from Edwards and a layup and free throw from Sheppard to cut the deficit to 44-38. The teams would trade baskets before Kentucky got baskets from Sheppard and Edwards to make it 46-42, forcing a Gonzaga timeout. UK’s 10-2 run got the Cats back in the game with more than 17 minutes to play.

The run continued after the timeout when Aaron Bradshaw made a free throw to get UK within three, 46-43. But Gonzaga got a Braden Huff basket to extend its lead to five, 48-43.

Kentucky trailed 51-45 before getting back-to-back dunks from Bradshaw and Thiero to get within two, 51-49. On the next possession, Reeves hit a three to give UK the lead, 52-51. It was the Cats’ first lead since 2-0, and it forced another Gonzaga timeout.

The run kept going with five consecutive points from Sheppard, giving UK a 57-51 lead with 12:30 to play. However, Gonzaga answered with five in a row to cut the UK lead to one, 57-56.

Thiero hit a three to make it 60-56, but the Zags would go on an 8-3 run to take a 64-63 lead with 8:48 to play. Reeves made a layup and free throw to give UK the lead back, 66-64, but Gonzaga got a three from Anton Watson on the next possession to re-take the lead, 67-66. The Zags extended the lead to 69-66 before a Sheppard layup cut the deficit to one, 69-68.

Another Huff basket extended the Gonzaga lead to 71-68 before Sheppard scored again to cut the deficit to 71-70.

Gonzaga would lead 75-72 when Sheppard blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound, raced to the other end and converted an acrobatic layup while being fouled. His subsequent free throw tied the game at 75-75 with 4:07 to play.

The Bulldogs would get a basket and layup from Watson to lead 78-75. From there, Kentucky would be able to get within one on two occasions but could never catch Gonzaga.

Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday, hosting Ole Miss at Rupp Arena. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on ESPN.

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