Cats get first comfortable win of season against North Dakota


Kentucky graduate student forward Reid Travis drives towards the basket during the game against North Dakota on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated North Dakota 96 to 58. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

UK basketball found its rhythm Wednesday night as the Cats throttled North Dakota at home, 96-58. The Cats had a 21-point lead built up at halftime and handled business in Rupp Arena like Big Blue Nation wanted them to.

Early in the second half, UK established the perimeter game they’ve wanted to through the beginning of the season. That style didn’t come from the team’s backcourt, however. Forwards P.J. Washington and Reid Travis knocked down all of their first three attempts from behind the arc. Travis eventually cooled off, but Washington finished the game shooting 4-5 from deep.

UK was turning the ball over early, and North Dakota opened the game leading 5-1. Shortly after, UK used a combination of half-court traps and fast break opportunities to go on a 14-0 run that gave the Cats the lead for good. They extended the lead gradually after their dominating spurt; and everyone got involved.

The Cats saw big games from players that have been in slumps to start the season. Tyler Herro, who went scoreless in the last victory over Southern Illinois, put up 18 points on 7-12 shooting, as well as getting it done on the defensive end. He took away five steals, complete with two first-half breakaway dunks for the freshman.

Washington also struggled in the first two games, averaging just five points after being designated one of the team’s leaders. Against North Dakota, however, he scored a career-high 25 points to go along with seven rebounds.

The Cats ended up dominating on the glass with the help of Washington, Travis and others. They outrebounded the visitors 45-15, crushing the Fighting Hawks in second chance points 16-0. The Hawks didn’t even get a second-chance basket in the game.

UK’s players weren’t without their struggles, however. Washington continued to struggle holding onto the basketball in the first half, with three turnovers in the period. He didn’t cough it up in the second, though.

Center Nick Richards followed up a 19-rebound performance with a two-point, two-rebound game that saw him foul out after a technical foul when he slammed the ball onto the court in frustration.

Point guard Ashton Hagans continued his difficult stretch, getting only one basket, two rebounds and one assist to go with a pair of turnovers in 16 minutes.

The Cats also got plenty of work from the free-throw line, nailing 24 of their 30 attempts at the line. Starting point guard Immanuel Quickley got well over half of his 12 points from the stripe.

UK will now set its sights on hosting Virginia Military Institute on Sunday.