No. 4 Kentucky defeats Howard 95-63 in season opener


Michael Clubb

Kentucky Wildcats forward Jacob Toppin (0) dunks the ball during the UK vs. Alabama mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 90-81. Photo by Michael Clubb | Kentucky Kernel

Ali Cetinok, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 4 Kentucky defeated Howard 95-63 in its season opener on Monday night, bringing its total 14-0 in home openers under head coach John Calipari.

The matchup kicked off the 121st season for the Wildcats, going down as the first time UK had faced off against the Bison in either program’s history. The win also marked the 20th-consecutive win at Rupp Arena dating back to 2020. 

With starters Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler both out due to health reasons and Daimion Collins out due to personal reasons, the Cats opted to use the same starting lineup as seen in their exhibition game against Kentucky State, starting Chris Livingston, Lance Ware, Cason Wallace, Jacob Toppin and CJ Fredrick.

After shaking off some early rust, the Wildcats went into halftime with a 49-26 lead.

In the second half, Kentucky was able to show some of its offensive quality, as well defensive dominance, holding the Bison to 23-67 (34.3%) from the floor. 

Offensively, Antonio Reeves led all scorers with 22 points, setting a Kentucky record with six 3-pointers made in his Wildcat debut.

Fredrick also made his regular-season debut for Kentucky, earning his sixth 20-point game of his career, while Toppin notched his first career double-double with 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. 

Wallace also came close to recording a first of his own, nearly earning a triple-double in his first collegiate game, notching 15 points, eight rebounds and nine assists which marked the second-most all-time in a UK debut. 

Livingston also earned himself nine points and four rebounds in his first collegiate start while Ware finished with four points and a career-high nine steals.

Freshman Ugonna Onyenso also finished with six points, four rebounds and four blocked shots, meanwhile Adou Thiero finished with four points and five rebounds. 

With a plethora of young players on the squad showing that they belong, one can’t deny Wallace’s impact on the game, which impressed Fredrick against Howard. 

“It’s crazy. It’s his first college game – kid’s 19 years old – that’s not normal,” Fredrick said. “There are not many people in the country doing that, let alone as a freshman. He brings such a different dimension to our team. What he’s doing at his age and at his first college game is special.” 

Fredrick was not alone in his praise of Wallace with Reeves also expressing how impressed he was with Wallace’s performance. 

“He’s a great player,” Reeves said. “You know, he’s well beyond his years I feel like. Coming in as a freshman (and) doing the things that he does. That’s what we need on the team and he provides that.”

After a week that saw a lot of heart-aching news face the team with the loss of Ben Collins, father of Daimion Collins, Calipari took the time to express how strongly he feels regarding the current group of players. 

“This is a unique and special group,” Calipari said. “They are competing for minutes, but they are cheering for each other.”

Kentucky returns to action against Duquesne on Friday, Nov. 11, inside Rupp Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. EST and will be televised on SEC Network.