In the final outing of Kentucky’s lengthy stretch of tune-up games, the ‘Cats were met with an unexpected challenge. Despite entering tipoff as a 30-point favorite, UK needed all 40 minutes to take down Southern University in Rupp Arena on Tuesday night, winning 76-64. The Jaguars were coached by former UK player Sean Woods.
Kentucky got off to a sluggish start, falling immediately into a 9-2 hole before the first media timeout. But a couple of easy buckets from TyTy Washington and Oscar Tshiebwe built some much-needed early momentum for the ‘Cats. The two sides would knot the score up at 11-11 and remained neck-and-neck for the majority of the first half.
It wasn’t until around five minutes were left in the opening half that Kentucky finally established a lead. UK went ahead 35-26 but could never push the advantage to double-digits before the break. The ‘Cats took a 38-34 lead into the locker room as Washington and Tshiebwe both dealt with foul trouble.
Along with the foul issues, Kentucky turned the ball over 10 times through the first 20 minutes while missing nine 3-pointers. Southern always seemed to have an answer for any mini-run from UK.
Out of the intermission, Kentucky was finally able to jump ahead, creating a 13-point lead after four minutes of action. From there, it was another back-and-forth battle as the Jaguars refused to let UK blow the doors wide open. Southern did manage to trim the Wildcat lead down to eight and six points throughout the later stages of the second half. However, Kentucky’s overall talent was simply too much to overcome in the end.
UK took much better care of the ball in the second half and shot 50 percent from the floor. Tshiebwe found his rhythm as well, adding 18 points and eight rebounds in just the second half. On the night, the Kentucky center finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds (9-11 shooting) for his seventh double-double of the year. Washington was the only other ‘Cat to hit double-figures, adding 14 points, three rebounds, and five assists.
Kentucky moves to 7-1 on the season with the win. The schedule will officially heat up now, with a road matchup against Notre Dame this Saturday.