Toppin shines for Cats in bounce-back victory over Louisville


Kentucky Wildcats forward Jacob Toppin (0) shoots the ball during the No. 19 Kentucky vs. Louisville mens basketball game on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 86-63. Photo by Jackson Dunavant | Staff

Ali Cetinok, Assistant Sports Editor

After an upset loss to Missouri last Wednesday, No. 19 Kentucky defeated Louisville 86-63 on Saturday to move to 9-4 on the season, while the Cardinals stumble to a 2-12 record.

After struggling in the last four games that saw Jacob Toppin score just nine points combined and being benched against Missouri, the Kentucky forward bounced back with a career-high 24 points. Toppin also won the Bluegrass Sports Commission (BSC) Most Valuable Player award against the Cardinals.

Toppin shot 10-15 from the floor and four of six from the line adding seven rebounds and two assists in a game that John Calipari showed his trust in the Brooklyn native after struggling with confidence after being in poor form and the loss against Missouri earlier this week.

“It feels good and besides that I had been in a rough patch I needed to get out of. I had a lot of support from my teammates and my coaching staff and it just feels good to get back to my old self mentally and physically so we just move forward and try to get better as a team from here.” Toppin said. “I had a good talk with Coach Cal the other day and had a good talk with my teammates and called a few other people to get back to where I was mentally, and it helped a lot.”

Oscar Tshiebwe also shined for Kentucky with another double-double finishing with 24 points and 14 boards. He also had two assists and two steals to rebound after the disappointing loss in Columbia.

“We played good. Now we get to slow the game down a little bit because as coach said, we watched the film against Missouri and we were just rushing everything.” Tshiebwe said. “Now, we get to slow down and are running plays and getting good shots. It was good.”

Cason Wallace also impressed yet again with 17 points, adding five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Kentucky shot the ball much better than the Cardinals shooting 60% from the field compared to Louisville who only made 46.8% of their field goal attempts. The Wildcats also shot 30% from behind the arc while the Cardinals shot 15% from three. Kenny Payne’s squad however performed much better at free throws with 75% compared to Kentucky who shot 64% at the line.

Saturday at Rupp Arena was not only a rivalry game, but also the return of a familiar face with Louisville head coach Kenny Payne, a former UK assistant coach making his return to Lexington to a warm welcome from Big Blue Nation in attendance despite the task at hand.

“I appreciate it. I respect Kentucky and I loved it here. To have them welcome me was great, but—I’ve said this over and over again—this isn’t about me.” Payne said.  “This is about these young men. I can’t make my program about me. Coming back to Louisville was about helping these young men get what they need to get to understand the treasures of playing at a university like Louisville.”

With the win on Saturday, Calipari has now moved to 18-8 all-time against Louisville, including 13-3 while at Kentucky. The win also means that the Wildcats remain undefeated at home against the Cardinals under Calipari.

Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday, Jan. 3, against LSU at Rupp Arena. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.