- Joe Mussatto SEC Country
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky basketball tips off its season at 7 p.m. ET Friday, November 10, 2017 at Rupp Arena against Utah Valley, a team coached by former Wildcat Mark Pope. Follow along for the score, live updates and stats from the game.
FINAL: No. 5 Kentucky 73, Utah Valley 63
Exhale (for now), Big Blue Nation. The Cats erased a 12-point second-half deficit with a wild, 18-0 run and a heavy dose of defense over the final 20 minutes to avoid a massive upset. They led by as many as 14. Now it’s on to Vermont on Sunday and No. 4 Kansas in Chicago on Tuesday. Several Cats stepped up big after intermission. Check out the full box score:
Kentucky 65, Utah Valley 56, 1:55 2H: The Wildcats have outrebounded the Wolverines by eight this half, thanks largely to Wenyen Gabriel. He has 7 points, 13 boards, 3 blocks and 3 assists in an excellent first game of his sophomore season. Kentucky finally remembered it was freakishly long and has rebounded and defended like it in the second half. Now 10 steals and 8 blocks tonight.
Kentucky 63, Utah Valley 52, 4:59 2H: The Cats have led by as many as 14 in this half as the steal fest continues. Kentucky has nine of those now, three by Knox and four by SGA. Knox has come on strong: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block. Gilgeous-Alexander — who has proved beyond a doubt that UK has two point guards — has a similar line: 11 points, 4 assists, 4 steals, 3 rebounds. And Diallo keeps making shots, up to 18 points.
Kentucky 55, Utah Valley 47, 7:52 2H: The crowd here at Rupp Arena is breathing a little easier. The lead has been as large as nine (with nine minutes to go) and Diallo is still doing his thing. A pretty pull-up jump shot brings him to 7 of 14 shooting for the night — after a 2-for-8 first half — for 16 points and 5 rebounds. Full box:
Kentucky 48, Utah Valley 44, 12:00 2H: I keep trying to remind myself that, despite it feeling very much not like Hamidou Diallo’s first college game, this is. And he’s awake now. Diallo has 14 points, 5 rebounds and two ridiculous dunks. He was part of the powder keg that blew open UK’s big run. He looked like he was on a pogo stick for his last offensive rebound. (Still, this thing ain’t over.)
No subs, lots of zone: John Calipari hates zone defense. He’s made that clear. But he’s also noted that this might be a team that forces him to use it. And he has tonight. Lots of 2-3 zone in the second half — but zero subs for the first 6:14 after intermission. Gilgeous-Alexander, Diallo, Knox, Gabriel (in place of starter Washington) and Richards all went the distance to get UK back the lead.
Kentucky 43, Utah Valley 37, 15:30: Holy blitz. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recorded three consecutive steals — two of which turned into SportsCenter dunks by Diallo and the third one he finished himself. That punctuated an absurd 11 unanswered points in the span of 88 seconds to get back into this one in a hurry. But it didn’t stop there. Gabriel swished a 3-pointer, SGA turned a Knox steal into a layup and Gabriel dropped a jump hook in the lane to make it an 18-0 run (still in progress) in 3 minutes, 29 seconds.
Utah Valley 37, Kentucky 32, 18:14 2H: What a swing. After a quick three-point play, the Wolverines led by a dozen in the first minute of the second half … then Kevin Knox swishes a corner three, Knox shook a guy in the open court and threw down a huge dunk and Hamidou Diallo turned a Gilgeous-Alexander steal into a slam on the other end. It was a 7-0 Kentucky run in just 45 seconds. That got the Cats (and the crowd) going.
Kentucky fan behind press row: "You can't win by 90 if you only score 50." #Fact
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_SEC) November 11, 2017
HALFTIME: Utah Valley 34, Kentucky 25
Well that was ugly. The Wildcats can’t even make a layup right now, evidenced by their 7-of-32 shooting in the first half. That’s 21.9 percent. That’s bad. Real bad. So is being outrebounded by nine and outscored in the paint by 10.
Earlier today, we put Kentucky on upset alert for opening weekend — but we meant Sunday’s game against Vermont (which won 29 games last season). Utah Valley went 17-17 last season, by the way. This is a sobering first game for Big Blue Nation. Here’s your (not safe for work) halftime box score:
Utah Valley 34, Kentucky 25, 2:06 1H: Yikes. The Cats have one of the longest teams in America and the Wolverines are crushing them on the glass (21-13) and in points in the paint (18-8). That, and a swished 3-pointer before that UK timeout, have put the preseason No. 5 team in the country on upset alert on opening night.
Utah Valley 27, Kentucky 23, 3:59 1H: The Wolverines keep hanging around because the Cats keep bricking shots, still just 26.9 percent from the field. But it’s a block party for Wenyen Gabriel and the Cats. He has two — including a recent spike — and Sacha Killeya-Jones just chased down his man for a big-time rejection from behind. He has 2 points, 1 block and 1 steal off the bench and is probably earning himself some more playing time. Here’s the full box score so far:
Kentucky 19, Utah Valley 18, 8:50 1H: The crowd finally has a little life and Kentucky finally has a lead after Hamidou Diallo’s first career points: a 3-pointer and transition slam back-to-back. Also, with an offensive rebound and bucket, Nick Richards scored half of the Cats’ first 12 points.
Utah Valley 14, Kentucky 10, 11:05 1H: John Calipari tried to warn you, BBN. This is going to be a bumpy start for the Wildcats, who started five freshmen tonight. The Cats started 2 for 10 from the field before a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 3-pointer and a nice baseline J from 6-foot-10 Sacha Killeya-Jones. Rupp Arena is dead, so much so that the visiting fans busted out an audible “Utah Valley!” chant.
Utah Valley 6, Kentucky 4, 15:39 1H: Kentucky’s offense is a bit of a mess without Quade Green running the show, and he’s set to check in for the first time after this timeout. The Cats are 2 for 8 shooting. Nick Richards has scored Kentucky’s first two buckets of the season. The sixth man tonight is Wenyen Gabriel. Also notable: 7-foot Oklahoma transfer Akolda Manyang has presented some early challenges for UK.
Kentucky’s starting five: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington and Nick Richards. That’s 6-foot-5, 6-6, 6-7, 6-9 and 7 feet — And every player on the floor has a wingspan of 7 feet or greater. Long lineup.
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