UK rides strong second half to defeat UNC Greensboro


Kentucky sophomore forward PJ Washington laughs with freshman guard Tyler Herro on the court during the game against University of North Carolina at Greensboro on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

It took nearly every minute of the game, but the UK men’s basketball team was able to pull away from the visiting UNC Greensboro Spartans on Saturday afternoon, winning 78-61.

Reid Travis notched his first double-double at UK, scoring XX points and grabbing XX rebounds to lead the Cats. He needed every bit of that production to match up with Spartan playmaker Francis Alonso, who put up 19 points in the first half thanks to near-perfect shooting.

The game started slowly for the Cats, as Alonso scored the first 11 points for UNC Greensboro to keep them ahead. He made his first three shots from beyond the arc, and the Cats didn’t gain a lead until nearly halftime.

In the first half, alpha dog forward Keldon Johnson went down with an ankle injury after going for a rebound and had to be taken to the locker room. He re-entered the game right out of halftime and finished the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The entire UK team tightened up defensively in the second half to slow up the offensive firepower for the Spartans, allowing only 21 points after halftime to the team that put 93 points up against SEC opponent LSU earlier this season.

After shooting 75% from deep in the first half, the UK defense extended to the perimeter and held the Spartans to just 1-12 (8%). Much of this was due to Ashton Hagans becoming the full-time defender on Alonso.

After Alonso was covered in the second half by Hagans, he only scored three points on 1-6 shooting with no assists and two turnovers. Hagans had a career day, locking down Alonso and playing a career-high 28 minutes to go with five points, two rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal.

To go with their increased defensive attention, UK’s offense ramped up as scoring machine Tyler Herro shook off a cold start to finish the game with 18 points. He made his last four shots of the game, all within the last five minutes to put the visitors away.

After facing their first real test since their blowout loss against Duke, the Cats will move on to play Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden in New York City next week.