UK beats Loyola 87-63 behind Wiltjer’s career high



The UK men’s basketball team got help off the bench from freshman Kyle Wiltjer to overcome injuries and foul trouble on their way to an 87-63 victory over the Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds at Rupp Arena Thursday afternoon.

“I knew it would be a hard game,” head coach John Calipari said. “They’re (Loyola) athletic, tough and older than us. They weren’t afraid – they went right after us. I’m going to say that they will win their league.”

This was the Cats second consecutive game without the services of pre-season All-American sophomore forward Terrence Jones, who averages 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game on the season.

The Cats also had limited play in the first half from starters Doron Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who both picked up their second personal fouls with more than 10 minutes left in the half.

Wiltjer took advantage of the increased opportunities, however, coming off the bench to lead the Cats with a career-high 24 points.

“I thought I played well,” said Wiltjer. “I wanted to go in there and play good minutes and keep grinding it out, and luckily tonight, a lot of the shots fell for me tonight.”

Wiltjer was 7-for-11 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line. He was also 3-for-6 from behind the arc, hitting the Cats only three three-pointers in the game.

“I wanted to try to hit open shots because last game I didn’t feel like I was knocking down open shots,” said Wiltjer. “All of those little things that coach wanted to me to focus on, I tried to focus on.”

His shots extended the program’s streak of 799 consecutive games of hitting a three-pointer, which is the third-longest streak in the nation.

The Greyhounds gave the Cats a challenge, taking advantage of UK’s early foul trouble and trailing the Cats by a mere six points at the half.

“In the first half we had no toughness,” Calipari said. “Other than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis no one even tried to rebound.”

The Cats broke the game open with a decisive seven-minute-long 22-4 run early in the second half, extending a 51-46 lead to 73-50 with 10:16 left in the game. Wiltjer had 10 of the Cats’ 22 points during that run.

The Cats outscored Loyola at the free-throw line by 22 points, hitting on 28 of 37 for the game, taking advantage of the Greyhounds’ 25 personal fouls.

Three other Cats scored in double-figures. Anthony Davis posted his fifth career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

“I think I played well. I missed a couple easy jump shots. For the most part though I rebounded the ball well and drove to the basket,” said Davis. “Made some key stops, it was just a great team effort. I thought it was a great effort by the team since everyone had their minds set on going home.”

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 15, had seven rebounds and led the team with four assists.

“Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is better than I thought,” said Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos. “He makes a lot of little plays – drove in, kicked it, got a rebound.”

Darius Miller added 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.

The team has a few days off for the holidays.

“We all need a break. I’m fighting guys too much. I’m fighting my point guard to be a point guard, I’m fighting Darius (Miller) to be tougher, fighting Kyle (Wiltjer) for defense, and fighting Eloy (Vargas) to come up with balls,” said Calipari. “They’ve got to want that stuff more than I want it, but we all need a little break.”

The Cats (11-1) have three more non-conference contests before beginning SEC play. The Cats return to action at Rupp Arena after the Christmas break Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. against the Lamar Cardinals (ESPNU). Lamar (8-4), from the Southland Conference, has losses to Louisville (48-68) and Ohio State (50-70) on their resume.

“At the end of the day, I like my team,” said Calipari. “When we click and we all come together and we’re all playing aggressive and we’re all bounding and talking and we’re all making easy plays, this stuff gets scary. “

“We’re not close to that right now,” said Calipari. “But this thing could get scary.”