Depth, rebounding prove to be strengths for UK in 77-59 victory against Ohio


Kentucky Wildcats guard Davion Mintz (10) shoots the ball 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

Jaron Centers

Where would Kentucky be without Oscar Tshiebwe, Kellan Grady and Sahvir Wheeler?

The Wildcats had to face that reality on Friday night in No. 13 UK’s 77-59 victory against Ohio.

All three of Kentucky’s early-season stars found themselves neutralized in the first half. Tshiebwe tallied two fouls in under two minutes in the first half, Wheeler headed to the locker room with zero assists and Grady failed to score a point in the first 20 minutes.

On paper, this would appear disastrous for a team who has had a bench struggling with consistency. 

That was not the case tonight, however, as the Wildcats’ bench scrapped themselves into a two-point lead going into halftime. The effort proved game-changing, as Kentucky was able to ride that momentum into firm control of the game, running away from the Bobcats in the second half. 

Multiple players off the bench showed their value for the Cats, scoring 25 points total as a group. 

Bryce Hopkins was one of those players, putting up seven points and seven rebounds. Hopkins’ efforts were praised by head coach John Calipari. 

“How about Bryce? Without him playing we don’t win the game,” Calipari said. “He’s still got some things to learn, but he fought and he rebounded.”

Davion Mintz also found himself being a big contributor, scoring 12 points and gathering nine rebounds. With Grady having a slow night, Calipari talked about Mintz taking advantage of the opportunity:

 “Kellan didn’t play bad, Davion just played better,” Calipari said.

Another small, yet big contribution was Dontaie Allen’s 3-pointer in the Cats’ 9-0 run in the first half to come back and tie the game. 

On a cold shooting night from beyond the arc, 3-16 from 3-point range didn’t stop UK from being efficient inside 22 feet. The Wildcats shot an impressive 68 percent on two-point shots.

A glaring advantage in the box score for the Cats was on the glass. Kentucky dominated the boards, taking the split 53-17 for the game. 

Four Wildcats: Washington, Brooks, Tshiebwe and Mintz found themselves collecting eight-plus rebounds on the night.

Ohio’s Jason Carter commended UK’s efforts on the backboards and game planning for rebounders like Tshiebwe. 

“Tshiebwe was a beast down there. We talked a lot about getting rebounds. We just didn’t do a great job of that in the second half,” Carter said. “At the end of the day it came down to those 50-50 balls and rebounds.” 

UK’s victory over Ohio featured the Cats’ fourth win in the rebound margin, as they are out-rebounding opponents by a margin of 19.5 this season, averaging 45.3 a game. 

The Cats will look to build on Friday’s victory, as they take on Albany on Monday, Nov. 22, seeking to remain undefeated at home. That game will tip-off at 7 p.m. E.T and will be available to watch on SEC Network+.