No. 18 Kentucky crushes Missouri 83-56 in SEC opener


Kentucky Wildcats forward Keion Brooks Jr. (12) watches his shot during the UK vs. Ohio University men’s basketball game on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 77-59. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

No. 18 Kentucky cruised in its SEC opener, powering past the Missouri Tigers, 83-56. 

The win improves Kentucky’s record to 10-2 (1-0 SEC) in the regular season.  

Keion Brooks Jr. led the way for the Wildcats, pouring in 17 points on 7-11 shooting, his sixth double-figure scoring game of the season. Brooks also hauled in nine rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 27 minutes of playing time.  

Oscar Tshiebwe was once again dominant on the glass, grabbing 20 rebounds on Wednesday, his fourth 20-plus board game of the year.  

While Tshiebwe did what he does best, Sahvir Wheeler would do the same against Mizzou, finishing with nine assists. Wheeler’s nine dimes matched the entire team total of the Tigers. Along with dishing out passes, Wheeler recorded 11 points on five buckets. 

“I asked Sahvir, what did you do over Christmas? Eat? Did you get into the gym at all?,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “(Wheeler) laughed, he said ‘I’ll be honest with you, I really didn’t, and I did eat.’ He got nine assists and one turnover, so I said ‘keep eatin’ kid.” 

Amari Davis and Jarron Coleman each finished with 10 points, leading the Tigers.  

Kentucky was able to keep Kobe Brown, Missouri’s leading scorer and rebounder in check, holding the forward to just six points, three rebounds and an assist. Brown entered Wednesday night’s matchup averaging 14.8 points and 8.9 rebounds-per-game.  

The Cats got off to a fast start, making six of their first 10 shot attempts.  

Forcing four Mizzou turnovers in the first five minutes, Kentucky got out to an early 11-point advantage, thanks to three buckets by Brooks.  

Missouri would have an uphill battle, as Brown exited at the 14:20 mark after picking up his second personal foul. Brown would sit for the rest of the half.  

Despite being without their best player, the Tigers ignited for 12 consecutive points to take their first lead of the night at 18-17 with just over 12 minutes left in the half. Junior guard Amari Davis spearheaded the run for the Tigers, scoring seven of the 12 points.  

It would take some time for the Wildcats to regain their mojo, as sloppy play by both teams paced most of the half.  

Davion Mintz played the role of spark plug for the Cats in the first half, collecting five quick points to stifle Mizzou’s momentum.  

As the half trickled along, Missouri would run into foul trouble that would slowly extend Kentucky’s lead. 12 personal fouls spread across nine Tiger players denied any rhythm in Mizzou’s offense.  

TyTy Washington coast-to-coast layup would extend UK’s lead to 20 points as Missouri was amidst a cold-streak shooting.  

The halftime buzzer sounded as Kentucky carried a 44-27 lead into the locker roomBrooks and Washington combined for 21 in the first half, holding the Tigers to 34.3 percent shooting while forcing 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes 

Missouri would open the second half on a 9-1 run to creep back into the game.  

The two teams would go back-and-forth as the Tigers remained pesky enough to keep the Wildcats’ lead hovering around 10 points, until the 7:00 minute mark in the half, as the Cats went on a 12-0 run to deny Mizzou any chance of an upset bid inside Rupp Arena.  

While Tshiebwe was a menace on the glass, the big man struggled mightily shooting the ball on Wednesday. Tshiebwe shot 1-5 from the floor in the first and second half, unable to finish in the post.  

Despite the poor shooting performance, Tshiebwe was able to rack up points from the charity stripe, going 9-10 from the free throw line.  

“The best news from today is that we learned we can play without Oscar. We held our own,” Calipari said. 

Missouri would once again go cold from the floor, unable to buy a basket as the final minutes dwindled down.  

A Bryce Hopkins bucket would cap off an 83-56 victory for the Wildcats, leaving no doubts in the SEC opener.  

10 Wildcats scored in the second half, with just three players making more than one shot in the 20-minute span. A complete team effort leads the Wildcats into their next-to-last non-conference game of the season on Friday, as they welcome Tubby Smith and the High Point Panthers to Rupp Arena.  

“I want he, his wife, and the kids to understand that this place, these fans, this school, this state absolutely appreciate what he did while he coached here, Calipari said.  

Friday’s matchup is set to tip-off at noon E.T and will be available to watch on the SEC Network.