UK basketball survives Troy comeback attempt


Kentucky freshman forward PJ Washington dunks the ball during the game against Troy University on Monday, November 20, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Rick Childress | Staff

In their first Monday night game of the season, the UK basketball team didn’t quite give their fans what they’re accustomed to with a 70-62 defeat of the Troy Trojans to move their record to 4-1 on the season.

The Cats showed off a balanced attack and strong rebounding, as three players finished in double figures and they outrebounded the Trojans 53-30. The tallest players in the game for Troy, Juan Davis Jr. and Alex Hicks, stood 6-8 and finished with a combined seven rebounds and five fouls.

On the offensive end, the Cats were led by Kevin Knox (17 points, five rebounds), Hamidou Diallo (eight points, 10 rebounds) and Wenyen Gabriel (12 points, six rebounds). The trio shot 13-29 from the floor.

From the opening tip, 7-0 center Nick Richards asserted himself with three rebounds in the first three possessions of the game, outrebounding the entire Trojans team as far as five minutes into the game. He finished with eight rebounds in the game.

The Cats were also helped by a 29 percent first half shooting performance by the Trojans, including 1-14 from the three. The Trojans could not find their footing in the game until the end, as it was only tied for 46 seconds. UK led for the other 39:14.

The first half was defined by clean basketball. The teams committed a combined seven turnovers in the half, and every starter for UK scored a field goal within 13 minutes of the game beginning. The Cats also had eight assists in the first period, but would finish the game with a 13:16 assist-to-turnover ratio, thanks to the second half.

The second half was much closer, as UK was outscored by the Trojans 29-37, compared to their 41-25 mark in the first half.

Toward the second half, the game tightened up as the Trojans responded to UK’s largest lead of the game by scoring nine unanswered to come within 12 points of the Cats. UK was held without points for over four minutes, struggling to get the ball in the basket. During this run, the Trojans made one of their four threes, making the shots they were missing early in the game.

With three minutes left, the Trojans hit their fourth three of the game on their 26th attempt from deep to cut the UK lead to single digits before head coach John Calipari called a timeout to refocus his young team. Immediately out of the timeout, the game stagnated after a floater from Knox, but an and-one layup by Wesley Person brought the UK lead to eight with a minute left.

Despite not scoring for the final 2:46, the Cats were able to hold on thanks to a jump ball and a few missed shots by the Trojans, but not before they scared all the Wildcat fans in Rupp Arena.

The Cats will host Fort Wayne next at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.