Antonio Reeves had the quietest 22-point game ever: 'He's a First-Team All-American.'

On3 imageby:Zack Geoghegan03/02/24

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Kentucky had seven different players reach double-figures in scoring against Arkansas. Six of them were freshmen, and we could spend plenty of time talking about how each one helped the Wildcats pull off the 111-102 victory.

DJ Wagner hit four three-pointers. Rob Dillingham scored 13 points in the final six minutes. A cold Justin Edwards changed the game with eight points down the stretch. Zvonimir Ivisic nearly posted a double-double. Aaron Bradshaw had his best outing in months. Reed Sheppard‘s pair of back-to-back triples in the first half almost blew the roof off Rupp Arena.

You could spend countless hours breaking down how all six of those rookies impacted the game before even touching on the guy who led the entire team in scoring. That guy was fifth-year guard Antonio Reeves, who finished with 22 points — his 17th 20-point outing of the season and fifth in a row — in what felt like a “quiet” game for the All-American candidate.

And speaking of his All-American campaign…

Antonio right now, he’s a First-Team All-American,” Calipari told CBS’ Jay Wright after the win. “I mean this kid is really playing.”

Reeves is so consistent that 22 points feels like a “meh” performance at this point. He had 14 in the first half alone on 5-7 shooting and didn’t even miss a shot (3-3 FG) in the second half. But his production will get understandably lost in the shuffle because of how the game ended — and because he was watching from the bench.

Reeves, who did turn the ball over a season-high five times, was subbed out with 7:50 to go in the game. He had played all but three minutes of the game before heading to the pine. At the time, Kentucky was down by six, 86-80. UK outscored Arkansas 31-16 the rest of the way without Reeves seeing the floor.

“I told the team, I only subbed Antonio for one reason,” Calipari said postgame. “He had not been subbed yet. We had 7:50 to go. Give him a minute or two and then I’ll put him back in.”

Calipari’s initial plan was to plug Reeves back into the lineup eventually, but the group of five that was on the floor (all freshmen, by the way) was playing so well that the head coach elected to ride it out with them. The strategic move paid off. Kentucky got the win. With only two more regular-season games left on the schedule, that’s all that matters.

But this isn’t to say that Kentucky is better with Reeves on the bench (letting Dillingham and Ivisic dominate in the pick-and-roll while sliding Edwards to the four in favor of Tre Mitchell were bigger factors). What it does speak to, however, is the Wildcats’ overall depth and talent. Kentucky beat Arkansas down the stretch with arguably its best (and inarguably its most consistent) player on the bench.

The deeper we get into March, the tougher it can be to win games. Kentucky continues to prove that it can pull them off in a variety of ways — even with an All-American off the court.

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2024-04-22