UK bomb Howard in season-opening win
Posted 8:04 am on Tuesday, November 8, 2022
Kentucky was missing two of its five starters in Monday night’s season opener, but that didn’t matter.
Antonio Reeves scored 22 points to lead the fourth-ranked Wildcats to a 95-63 win over outscored Howard. Reeves, a transfer from Illinois State, knocked down six of the team’s 11 3-pointers in the easy win. Reeves’ six 3s set a school record for the most made in a debut.
“It’s wild,” Reeves said. ” I did not know. … I did pretty well for my first game. I managed to knock down shots and the team did the same. We all connected and rebounded and moved the ball pretty well.
Kentucky (1-0) was without veteran forward and National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe and point guard Sahvir Wheeler. Both players are listed day to day with right leg injuries ahead of Friday’s game against Duquesne. Tshiebwe missed both exhibition games, while Wheeler missed the blowout win over Kentucky State last Thursday night.
The Wildcats started freshmen Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston in the absence of Tshiebwe and Wheeler. The Wildcats were also without second-year forward Daimion Collins (dealing with the unexpected death of his father). Collins is expected to play on Friday.
Celebrating his 19th birthday, Wallace provided a strong ground game for Kentucky and just missed a triple-double in his college debut. Wallace finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
“I couldn’t have imagined this (kind of match),” Wallace said. “It’s good. I just came out and (trying to play) my best game. … I played with my guys today, the best gift I could have.
Kentucky coach John Calipari praised Wallace’s performance, who had just two turnovers in 35 minutes.
“He’s a guard, that’s what he is,” Calipari said. “The best players I’ve had have been guards. They can play with the ball and they can play with the ball and they are tough as nails and he is tough. It’s fun to be around. He’s a competitor… … He’s special.
Senior transfer keeper CJ Fredrick, also making his Rupp Arena debut, finished with 20 points and scored 11 in the first half. Fredrick knocked down two shots from long range.
“Do you know what CJ does? He makes all the right plays,” Calipari said. “He played 36 minutes and no turnovers. It’s him.”
Jacob Toppin had his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds to round out four in double figures.
Ahead of the contest, Tshiebwe received the Naismth Trophy for Player of the Year as well as a match ball for scoring his 1,000th career point last year, which included his time in West Virginia.
Howard’s coach Kenny Blakeney said Kentucky’s length affects his team’s ability to perform to their ability.
“I wish I could have played like we were training,” he said. “We struggled tonight.”
Even without his two seniors, Calipari likes his squad composition although the competition for a few minutes will become more intense when Tshiebwe and Wheeler return to the line-up.
“It’s a unique and special group,” he said. “They clash for minutes, but they cheer each other on.”
Kentucky is back in action at 7 p.m. Friday at Rupp Arena against Duquesne.