Wildcats overcome early struggles, triumph over Bellarmine 60-41


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) dribbles the ball during the No. 19 Kentucky vs. Bellarmine mens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 61-40. Photo by Jack Weaver | Kentucky Kernel

Samantha Money, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 19 Kentucky mens basketball (5-2) defeated the Bellarmine Knights 60-41 to remain undefeated at home on Tuesday. 

Antonio Reeves led the Cats with 18 points and five rebounds, shooting 50% (3-6) from the 3-point line. 

His energy was matched by that of CJ Fredrick, who racked up 11 points, nine of which came from beyond the arc.

“When we (Fredrick and Reeves) were starting to hit some in the second half, our lead started to increase, and we put a lot of pressure on them to come down and have to get a bucket,” Fredrick said. “I definitely think that opened up the game and helped us offensively.”

Reeves and Fredrick fueled Kentucky’s 23-3 run in the second half against the Knights, which was ultimately the key to the lopsided victory after a slow offensive first half for the Wildcats.

UK finished the first half tied at 21 with Bellarmine, marking the lowest scoring half Kentucky has recorded this season. The team gave up nine turnovers and shot 30% from the field, leading to the figure.

With Bellarmine’s unique offensive style exhausting the Cats, Kentucky struggled to find a rhythm on the court early on.

Reeves blamed this first half performance on the low energy he and the rest of the team possessed, while Jacob Toppin agreed, going on to speak about the team picking up the pace.

“There’s going to be games like this, and we’ve got to find ways to win, and we did today,” Toppin said. “The first half was a little sluggish, but we came back in the second half and grinded out the game and we just knew that was the kind of game it was going to be, it was going to be a fast-paced game, and we figured out ways where we could get easy buckets and easy plays so we could win the game.”

That said, slow offensive starts seems to be a pattern that Kentucky has demonstrated this season, having struggled in the same way against Gonzaga in Spokane and also, even if just for a brief period, against North Florida just the week prior.

Fortunately for the Cats, they were able to overcome their offensive funk against the Knights and finish the game shooting 41.5% from the field.

Despite the offensive challenges, Kentucky had two of its best defensive halves, holding Bellarmine to 21 points in the first half and 20 in the second, the lowest totals recorded by any opponent so far this season.

The team also dominated the boards, finishing with double the number of rebounds as the Knights with 42.

“It took unbelievable discipline to play the way we played it,” head coach John Calipari said. “They’re a team that, when you break down, make you pay. So, it takes unbelievable discipline throughout the possession for 40 minutes. And so that’s what was good about this.”

Kentucky will return to action after taking the long flight to London, England, to take on Michigan in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 1 p.m. EST. The game will also be streamed live on ABC.