LEXINGTON – The No. 15 Kentucky Wildcats improved to 4-0 at Rupp Arena and 4-2 on Wednesday of the year with a lopsided 96-56 win over North Florida.
“I liked what I saw in terms of turnover assists,” said Britain head coach John Calipari after the game. “I liked what I saw. Finding out for the first time how we post Oscar (Tshiebwe) and what we are trying to do.”
Kentucky went 10-5 into the first media timeout of the game thanks to four early points from Jacob Toppin and three points from Antonio Reeves and Cason Wallace.
After the break, the Wildcats put together a 9-4 run highlighted by a steal from Oscar Tshiebwe, which he turned into a transitional dunk to put the Wildcats 19-9 ahead and force North Florida to come up with 12:15 to take a time out in the half.
UK went into the third media timeout at 28:14 and used a 10:2 run to extend their lead to 38:16 to go into the U4 media stop.
At halftime, the British lead grew to 31 when Reeves drilled a three as halftime was up to give the Wildcats a 54-23 lead.
Reeves scored 18 points in the first half by making four of his five shots from three and shooting 7-for-9 from the field. As a team, UK shot 53.7 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from three in the first half.
“The Reeves kid, No. 12, just because I saw her in the movie and was at the highest level I’ve been at Baylor and Clemson and obviously been for 35 years and that’s a thought of 91st guaranteed money game. So I saw a lot of good players. He’s just as good a three-point shooter and a three-point finder as anywhere in the country,” North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll said after the game. “If he doesn’t have a three, he gets the three-in-one Finding a step back or a breakup. Instead of a lot of guys, they get thrown off and then they can’t get into the rhythm. And I think that’s what makes Reeves special.”
Kentucky’s dominance continued in the second half as they went into the first media timeout of the half with a 67-31 lead and extended that 79-39 to 40 points with 12-14 remaining and the Ospreys winning led to taking a break.
The two teams played the rest of the match evenly matched 17-17, allowing Great Britain to complete a 40-point victory.
Reeves scored 20 points in the win for Great Britain while Toppin also scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds to set up a double-double.
Tshiebwe recorded his third double-double of the season and finished 31st in 38 games as a wildcat with 16 points and 15 rebounds. He also added a career-high five assists, racked up three steals and blocked two shots.
“He’s gotten better, if you remember a year ago he wasn’t a really good passer, especially at the beginning of the year,” Calipari said of Tshiebwe’s five assist nights from his center position. “But having five assists, one turnover and three steals. That’s a big game. Now. We have a belt that we give out on wins. The most impactful player that has impacted the game, the staff get it and it’s a big glow belt. Maybe they will show you. He got it today. He was the most influential one.”
“I know they will double me all the time because if you let me one on one with the guy it’s an easy bucket – so I have to be a good passer if I want my team to win,” Tshiebwe added.
Jarius Hicklen led North Florida with 17 points. The Ospreys fell 1-4 in the season with the loss and fell to Kentucky for a second straight season at the Rupp Arena when UNF came to Lexington and fell 86-52 last season.
Kentucky will be back in action next Tuesday when they welcome country enemy Bellarmine to the Rupp Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 6pm CT.