The Cats were coming off a tough loss to Gonzaga on Sunday but managed to bounce back as Antonio Reeves took advantage of his new starting role and sparked his team to a 96-56 win over North Florida.
It didn't take long for the Big Blue faithful to notice that the Cats were dialed in as Reeves knocked down four three-pointers in the first half, and Kentucky held a 54-23 lead at the half. It’s the most points the Cats have scored in the first half this season. Reeves finished 18 points on the night. A Kentucky player hasn’t scored that many points during the first half since PJ Washington did against Vanderbilt in 2019.
“I didn’t like how we started the last game,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Just didn’t like it and I said let’s let him come in and see if we start better or if we defend a little better. But it doesn’t matter. I mean, you’re going to have four guards playing 25 minutes.”
Jacob Toppin showed signs of finding his jumper during the second half against Gonzaga but proved that it wasn’t a fluke on Wednesday evening as he knocked down four of his first five shots during the second half. Toppin scored 11 points in the second half and finished with a career-high 20 points.
Oscar Tshiebwe recorded another double-double as he scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He also dished out five assists, good for a career-high.
Calipari is not happy with the two early season losses but knows it’s going to take some time for his team to gel.
“So we’re working on it,” Calipari said. “Today, again, some execution breakdowns again. I mean, I said. Okay, we’re going to run this. Do you know it? Two guys said no. We ran a play and the guy didn’t go where he was supposed to. Another guy didn’t cut off. We got work to do. But I like what I saw, assist to turnovers I like what I saw. Figuring out for the first time how we post Oscar, stuff that we’re trying to do.”
Ugonna Onyenso took advantage of more minutes and scored seven points, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“I liked Ugonna,” Calipari said. “But he gets tired. Chris (Livingston) got tired. I told ‘em, Sub yourself. Don’t stay in there and get beat on the dribble twice. Sub yourself.”
Calipari had some advice for the fans during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Reach out to someone you know that will be by themselves and invite them to your house,” Calipari said. “Thanksgiving’s coming at a great time, be thankful.”
Kentucky will host Bellarmine on Monday, November 28, at 7 pm. Unfortunately, for a lot of Wildcat fans who watch the game on traditional tv, the game will be shown on SEC Network Plus.
Tim Branstetter, Sports Writer for The Kentucky Daily