Even without three key pieces to the rotation, Kentucky men’s basketball still ran away with its season opener.
The No. 4 Wildcats cruised to a 95-63 victory over the Howard Bison on Monday night in Rupp Arena, the first real game of the regular season for both programs. Kentucky was without reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe, Bob Cousy award nominee Sahvir Wheeler, and potential breakout star Daimion Collins for various reasons. Despite that, the ‘Cats took control of the contest early and earned its first win of the 2022-23 season in the process.
Battling through the many absences, Kentucky had plenty of players step up to the challenge. Antonio Reeves led the way with 22 points on 8-16 shooting, including a 6-12 clip from distance. He was aided by 20 points from CJ Fredrick, who shot 6-9 from the floor while adding three assists and three rebounds. Cason Wallace and Jacob Toppin contributed 15 points apiece, with Wallace going for eight rebounds and nine assists. Toppin hauled in 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Much like Kentucky’s second exhibition win last week over Kentucky State, it was a slow-moving first couple of minutes. Howard took a quick 3-2 lead not even two minutes into the night before UK broke the game wide open. Halfway through the first 20 minutes of action, the ‘Cats were already ahead by double-digits and continued to balloon its lead from there.
At the intermission, Kentucky was up 49-26 behind a combined 24 points from Reeves (13) and Fredrick (11). Toppin also chipped in nine points and eight rebounds in the first half of action as UK shot over 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from long range. On the other end, Howard was held to just 27.8 percent overall shooting at the midway point.
Out of the halftime break, it was more of the same. Kentucky’s advantage swelled to 30-plus points before settling on the 32-point win. When it was all said and done, the ‘Cats finished with a shooting split of 54.8 percent from the field, 45.8 percent (11-24) from deep, and 57.1 percent (16-28) from the free-throw line. Howard failed to shoot better than 30 percent from the field and 3-point range.
Stay tuned for more postgame coverage from KSR. Check out tonight’s stat sheet below.