12th-Ranked Kentucky Dominates No. 8 Miami 95-73
By Jamie H. Vaught
It was another exciting matchup for the Big Blue Nation who saw No. 12 Kentucky crush No. 8 Miami (Fla.) in a very impressive 95-73 victory Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.
The hot-shooting Wildcats, who once again had five players score in double figures, were nearly flawless, making almost 60 percent of their baskets (37 of 62 attempts) with an eye-popping 26 assists while committing only eight turnovers. Entering the game, Kentucky led the nation in turnover percentage (10.8 percent), while No. 2 in the nation in both categories -- turnovers per game and assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.45).
UK’s 22-point margin of victory is the school’s largest over an Associated Press Top 10 opponent in Rupp Arena history. The previous high was 21 points against No. 6 Louisville in November 1983.
The win improved UK’s record to 6-1, while the Hurricanes, who returned three starters from last season’s Final Four team, dropped to 5-1.
In UK’s scoring department, freshman Reed Sheppard came off the bench and gunned in a game-high 21 points while adding five rebounds, four assists and three steals. He also led the Cats in plus/minus at +35. Senior Antonio Reeves had 18 points and has scored double figures in every game this season.
But it was a pure team effort that sparked Kentucky to a stunning performance over a very good Miami team.
In addition to Sheppard and Reeves, graduate student Tre MItchell had 14 points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and a career-high seven assists. Freshman Rob Dillingham had 12 points and a season-high nine assists with no turnovers in a reserve role. He also had five rebounds and two steals. Freshman Justin Edwards had 11 points, his fifth double-digit game of the season. Sophomore Adou Thiero had nine points and a team-best six rebounds. Freshman D.J. Wagner, who injured his ankle in the late first half, had five points with one assist and one blocked shot in limited action.
Edwards said the closeness among his teammates plays a huge role in team’s success.
“It plays a lot because that is how we are off the court,” he said. “We are a bunch of friendly guys hanging out together, so I think it plays a big part in our success. I feel like us being young plays a part in it, so we try to get everyone to go out with us. Even the vets like Tone (Antonio Reeves) we go bowling with sometimes and we just try to get everybody out.”
Miami coach Jim Larranaga commented, “Kentucky was terrific tonight. Very explosive, and we couldn't really defend anyway. Their size, athletic ability, shooting ability. They shot 42 percent from three, 59 percent overall and we just couldn't guard.
“I think what's impressive about Kentucky's offense is how well they share the ball. They had 26 assists and we had eight, it's not a good stat for us.”
Larranaga was impressed with Sheppard’s performance.
“He’s so good at everything,” said the Miami boss. “I mean he can shoot it, he can handle it, he can pass it. He finds the open man great and he defends. You might look at him and think that okay, he's not that athletic. You try to score on him, but he’s moving his feet using his hands and doing a great job at the defensive end of the floor as well. He comes up with a lot of deflections and steals as well. He had four assists and one turnover and then (Rob) Dillingham had nine assists and no turnovers. That’s a pretty good night from your bench. They don’t start.”
Kentucky’s victory over a Top 10 team meant a lot to the players.
“Yeah, it's huge. We are going to enjoy this win tonight,” said Sheppard. “Then get back at it tomorrow. We knew we had a good team and now we know for sure we have a good team. We just need to keep doing the little things, keep sharing the ball, keep passing it around. It's going to be a fun season.”
UK finishes its five-game homestand Saturday against UNC Wilmington. The SEC Network will televise the 4 p.m. (ET) game.
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Kentucky’s John Calipari and Miami’s Jim Larranaga are two of the winningest coaches in NCAA Division I men’s basketball, combining for 1,525 career victories, entering Tuesday night’s game. Calipari (795) and Larranaga (730) are two of seven active DI coaches with at least 725 victories, joining Cliff Ellis (829), Rick Barnes (783), Bill Self (777), Kelvin Sampson (739) and Dana Altman (735).
Jamie Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of six books about UK basketball, including recently-published “Forever Crazy About the Cats: An Improbable Journey of a Kentucky Sportswriter Overcoming Adversity." He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com Magazine, and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @KySportsStyle or reach him via email at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.