LEXINGTON, Ky. – WKU Hilltopper Basketball was two scores at the start of the second half on Wednesday against the No.20/18 Kentucky, but the Wildcats’ sharp attack and dominating rebound made the difference in a 95-60 loss to Rupp. Arena.
Five days after Kentucky dismantled North Carolina 98-69 on neutral ground, the Wildcats (9-2) picked up where they left off in the first regular-season game between the two programs since 2001.
The game also helped raise funds for those affected by the tornadoes that devastated the state on December 11. Kentucky donated $ 100,000 of gambling revenues to the American Red Cross.
“First of all, I will say it again,” said WKU head coach Rick Stansbury. “Give Kentucky a lot of credit for their willingness to play this game. They didn’t have to play it. Their willingness to donate money to our community and the State of Kentucky. I told Cal they had nothing to gain from playing. He knows it and that’s why he hadn’t played it. So give it credit. But today we have not had an answer.
“Sometimes it’s enough to say the other team was better. And they were better in every way. Again, I don’t have answers for everything they did. But I just know when they play like that they were the best team in America today.
Kentucky went on a 16-2 streak after WKU opened up a 5-4 lead, taking the 20-7 advantage over a Jacob Toppin dunk with 10:48 left in the first half.
The Wildcats led to 16 in the first half, but WKU (8-5) responded with a 7-0 run and reduced their deficit to 37-28 at the break.
The Hilltoppers went on to score the first five points of the second half, making it a 37-33 game with 18:46 to go on a pair of free throws from senior forward Jairus Hamilton.
But Kentucky then delivered the knockout blow – a 15-0 flurry that included 11 points from Kellan Grady with three 3-pointers.
“I thought it was important that we got the game down to less than four points,” said fifth-year senior guard Josh Anderson. “As for the UK, I think they were just prepared for a moment like this. Just for us in the future, that when we’re in a game like this and a battle like this “Here we just have to come together. We had a great race, we got down to four, and at a time like that, we just have to pass and take the lead.”
Grady finished with a high of 23 points, while TyTy Washington Jr. added 20. Oscar Tshiebwe finished with 14 points and 28 rebounds, a new record at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky had 27 assists and passed WKU 50-27.
Fifth-year senior guard Josh Anderson led the Hilltoppers with 18 points, while graduate senior guard Camron Justice added 13.
Junior center Jamarion Sharp had eight points, seven blocks and six rebounds before a sprained ankle put him on the sidelines for most of the second half.
The Hilltoppers are now taking a vacation break before starting the U.S. Conference game at Southern Miss at 7:00 p.m. CT on December 30. This game will be broadcast on ESPN +.
“There is always something to learn from every game,” Justice said. “I think in this one was that they were the better team tonight. In games like this when they hit and come in their place it depends more on the character of your team and your culture and are the guys going to stick together or are they going to start blaming each other. I thought it was good tonight, everyone stayed together. We somehow knew it wasn’t our night, but we kept fighting.