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Bob Dixon

Agency Manager


Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

Gonzaga Stops Struggling Kentucky 89-85 at Rupp Arena

By Jamie H. Vaught

Saturday was a very frustrating day for the Kentucky Wildcats.


We saw the Cats make history.  Not the kind we like.  But Kentucky unfortunately made the day memorable in an 89-85 loss to Gonzaga in a nonconference showdown as it dropped three straight home games at Rupp Arena for the first time and the arena has been around since 1976 – almost 50 years.


And it happened on UK coach John Calipari’s 65th birthday.


In less than a two-week period, the Cats dropped to Florida 94-91 in overtime, Tennessee 103-92 and then Gonzaga, all at Rupp Arena.


Not a good day for the slumping Wildcats, who now have a 16-7 record overall, and they are in danger of not playing in the NCAA tournament if they aren’t careful with several tough SEC games remaining.

Former Villanova coach Jay Wright, now a TV commentator for CBS, talks with Kentucky freshman D.J. Wagner before Saturday's game at Rupp Arena. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught)

Playing before a national television audience with CBS announcers Brad Nessler, Bill Raftery and two-time national championship coach Jay Wright calling the action, Gonzaga, for the most post, stayed ahead in the exciting contest.  The Wildcats eventually overcame their deficit in the second half when they raced to a six-point lead in the mid-second half, but coach Mark Few’s Bulldogs, who improved their record to 18-6, bounced back.


On losing three consecutive games at Rupp Arena, UK freshman Justin Edwards, who had eight points and tied for the team lead in rebounds with five, commented, “We’ve got to take pride in the little stuff. That’s something we say all the time to each other, we've got to take pride in guarding the ball down low. What hurt us the most was guarding the ball and second-chance points.”


A big difference between the two clubs in the stat sheet was rebounding.  The Bulldogs outrebounded UK by a 43-31 margin with 18 offensive rebounds.


On defensive improvement, Kentucky senior Antonio Reeves said, “There was definitely some improvement in the second half, but I feel like mostly it was just rebound that killed us. They got like 18 plus rebounds offensively and you know it kind of killed us at the end.” 


Kentucky freshman Reed Sheppard gunned in a team-high 21 points, all in the second half.  He also tied for the team lead in rebounds with five. Interestingly, Sheppard did not hit a three-point field goal, ending a 17-game streak with a three-pointer. Reeves poured in 17 points.  Sophomore Adou Thiero made 15 points, one shy of his career high 16 points against Kansas.  He also had five rebounds. 


Despite the recent setbacks, UK coach John Calipari said the sellout crowds at Rupp Arena have been very supportive, and he still likes his team.

“I want to tell our fans how much I appreciate what they are doing for this team or what they are trying to do," said Calipari. "They are here. They are loud. When we needed them they stood up. This team needs it and I would just say stick with them. I appreciate the fans and, you know, you walk into this building and it's packed like it has been for three games. We just normally come out like on fire and we just haven't. But again, nothing has changed in my mind with this team. We have the ability to do what we want. We are just going to have to do it together.”

Kentucky returns to Southeastern Conference action Tuesday at home against Ole Miss.  Game time is 9 p.m. ET and it will be televised on ESPN.

Jamie H. 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 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


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