Kentucky won the tip to open the season against Utah Valley and immediately scored on an easy shot by Nick Richards, then Utah Valley scored 4 in a row to give UK it’s first deficit of the season. Richards would again score on an inside bucket to tie the game at 4. Utah Valley is coached by former UK player Mark Pope. Utah Valley will travel to Duke tomorrow for a contest against the number 1 team in the country.
Neither team shot the ball well going in to the first tv timeout as Utah Valley would hold a 6-4 lead. UK shot 2 for 8 and Utah Valley was 2-6. After missing on 8 straight, UK started to find the rim and tied the game at 10 at the 12:00 minute mark. It wouldn’t take long for Utah Valley to reclaim the lead as they scored 4 quick points forcing UK in to a timeout at the 11:05 mark. The Cats were shooting an abysmal 4 of 13 while the Wolverines were hitting on 5 of 12 shooting.
UK would take the lead back on a breakaway dunk by Alexander, for a 19-18 lead at the 9:05 mark forcing Utah Valley to take a timeout. Utah Valley would go on a 9-0 run as UK again would go cold missing 9 straight shots giving Utah Valley a 27-23 lead at the 4:00 mark and tv timeout. The Cats continue to struggle from the field going 7 of 24 while the Wolverines hit on 9 of 25.
UK came out of the timeout flat and Utah Valley was sniffing blood and went on a 7-2 run to open a 34-25 lead on the young Cats. UK appeared to lack the energy you would expect from Calipari coached team. The Wolverines out shot UK most of the half and held a decided rebound advantage on UK.
The halftime score pretty much summed up UK’s game so far. UK shot an incredibly bad 7 of 32 for 21.9%, that’s right, 21.9%!!! Utah Valley shot 12 for 30 for 40%. The Wolverines outrebounded UK 25-16. Turnovers were about even with UK committing 7 and Utah Valley with 8. Both teams had 5 assists.UK missed it’s last 15 shots and went 3:58 without scoring a point.
UK was led in scoring by Richards with 8 and Diallo and Alexander with 5. Neilson and Toolson led the Wolverines at the half with 8. At least for a half, no one at Rupp is laughing about the Mark Pope led Wolverines. Utah Valley led 34-25 at the half.
After a quick Utah Valley basket and free throw for a 37-25 lead, UK woke up for an 18 – 0 run that included 3 thunderous dunks that brought the UK faithful back to life. Utah would take a timeout to try to stem the tide. UK hit on 8 straight shots during their run. At the 12:00 tv timeout, UK was holding on to a 48-44 lead outscoring the Wolverines 23-7 in the first 8 minutes of the 2nd half.
UK opened up it’s biggest lead of the game going up 8 by the score of 55-47 at the 8:00 mark of the 2nd half. UK was shooting 68% on 13 of 19 shooting. Diallo led the way through the 8:00 minute mark with 11 points. UK again came out of a timeout with a flurry opening up a 61-49 lead at the 6:00 mark.
UK would hold on for a 73-63 win, after going to a zone defense that opened the game open for the young Cats. UK would outscore the Wolverines 48-29 in the second half. The Cats were still outrebounded 39-38 for the game, although they outrebounded Utah Valley 22-14 in the 2nd half. The Cats were led in scoring by Diallo with 18. Alexander had 13, Knox had 12, Richards finished with 10. Gabriel had 7, Washington 5,Green 4, Killeya – Jones 4. Gabriel also pulled down 13 rebounds. The Cats play Vermont Sunday and Utah Valley goes on to play #1 ranked Duke on Saturday.