Men's Basketball
Edwards' Huge Day Lifts No. 17 Kentucky Past No. 13 Alabama

Edwards' Huge Day Lifts No. 17 Kentucky Past No. 13 Alabama

by Tim Letcher

Kentucky head coach John Calipari had been saying it for weeks – it was just a matter of time before freshman Justin Edwards had a breakout game. Saturday was that game, and it came at a crucial time.

With the Cats hosting No. 13 Alabama, Edwards had the game of his UK career. He scored a career-high 28 points, making his first 10 shots from the floor, including four from behind the arc, as No. 17 Kentucky beat Alabama 117-95 inside a noisy Rupp Arena.

Edwards became the fourth player in UK history to attempt at least eight shots in a game without a miss. He joins Rodney Dent (12 of 12 against Morehead State in 1993), Kenny Walker (11 of 11 against Western Kentucky in 1986) and Michael Bradley (8 of 8 against Pittsburgh in 1998).

Edwards was not alone, as the Cats placed five players in double figures. Antonio Reeves scored 24 points and had five assists. Zvonimir Ivisic had a career-high 18 points to go with five rebounds and four blocked shots. Rob Dillingham had 16 points and Adou Thiero added 12.

Kentucky (19-8, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) scored first on an Ugonna Onyenso basket in the lane, but Alabama answered with a 7-1 run to grab an early 7-3 lead. The Cats then ran off six in a row, five of which were by Reeves, to lead 9-7.

The game would be tied at nine, 12 and 14 before Alabama scored five in a row to lead 19-14. Kentucky would get threes from Rob Dillingham, Reeves and Reed Sheppard to take a 23-22 lead. Alabama briefly took the lead back, 25-24, before the Cats got an Onyenso layup to lead 25-24 with 11:37 still to play in the first half.

After Alabama took a 26-25 lead on a Grant Nelson dunk, Kentucky got an acrobatic layup from Dillingham, one that briefly sat on top of the backboard, to lead 27-26. An Onyenso free throw made it 28-26 Cats.

A Rylen Griffen three gave the Tide a 29-28 lead but the Cats got a D.J. Wagner layup and a steal, basket and free throw from Adou Thiero to lead 33-28 with 8:42 left in the half. The run continued with a Thiero layup and a Justin Edwards jumper, making it nine UK points in a row and a 37-29 lead.

After Mark Sears scored for Alabama, Kentucky ran off 11 more points in a row, including a three-point play from Zvonimir Ivisic, to take a 48-31 lead with 3:39 to play in the half. The Tide would make four free throws in a row before Edwards hit a three and added a fast break layup, giving the Cats a 53-35 lead. Kentucky would lead 58-42 at the half. It was Kentucky’s second-highest scoring half of the season, trailing only the 69 first-half points UK scored against Marshall.

Early in the second half, the teams traded baskets and Alabama eventually got within 13 points, 64-51. However, the Cats then got baskets from Reeves and Thiero to extend the lead to 68-51. After Sears hit a three for Bama, UK got an Edwards free throw, a Sheppard dunk and an Edwards four-point play to build the lead to 75-54 with 15:15 left.

The run continued as Edwards converted a fast break, reverse layup, giving UK a 77-54 advantage. A Reeves layup and free throw concluded the 12-0 and left the Cats with an 80-54 lead. UK made nine of its first 10 shots in the second half.

The onslaught continued. After Alabama scored to make it 80-56, Ivisic scored four in a row to make it 84-56. The Cats then went on an 8-3 run, with all eight points by Dillingham, to lead 92-59 with 11:04 still to play.

The Cats would extend the lead to as many as 37 points, 104-67, before setting for the 22-point victory.

Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday night, visiting Mississippi State in Starkville. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen ESPN.

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