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PENNY'S PERSPECTIVE: UK's Ugonna Onyenso Impressive Against Duquesne

By Penny Deatrick

The fourth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats extended their home court win streak to 21 with a 77-52 victory over the Duquesne Dukes Friday night at Rupp Arena.

And UK's starting lineup that was used for its season opener earlier this week started again -- Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware. In addition, the Cats had significant help from the bench with former starter Sahvir Wheeler, recovering from an injury, notching a double-double in 27 minutes of action. Antonio Reeves played over 27 minutes off the bench, hitting18 points in leading Kentucky in scoring for the second consecutive game. He also gunned in 4 of 6 three-pointers.

Kentucky freshman Ugonna Onyenso in action against Duquesne Friday night at Rupp Arena. (UK Athletics Photo by Chet White)

Six-foot-eleven Ungonna Onyenso also came off the bench and provided big time production in his nearly 19 minutes of action. He has proven his value as a tough-nosed shot blocker.

During his post-game press conference, UK coach John Calipari commented that “Ugonna impacts the game the minute he walks on the court. He’s not afraid…he shot a right handed jump hook from 12 feet…..air ball, but he had the courage to do it.”

Ugonna was one point away from a double- double with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

Wheeler had an impressive return to the hardwood floor with 11 points, 11 assists, and 2 steals while committing only 2 turnovers.

“Sahvir did well," said Coach Cal. "He played more minutes than I wanted to play him. I think our guards are going to play 25, 20, 25, 27 depending on who is playing well.”

Said Wheeler, “Coach Cal always talked about that his good teams that were successful, they had shot-blocking presence. So when he’s (Ugonna) back there, when Daimion (Collins) gets back there, all of that’s going to be hard for teams to go against. We’re going to wear you out, we’re going to get into your legs, pick up full court. Then you have to finish over Ugonna, Daimion, and Toppin. Lance had a couple of blocks today -- all those guys are chipping in.”

Blatantly missing from those names mentioned is the returning National Player of the Year, Oscar Tshiebwe, who has missed the first two games of the season. Calipari indicated Tshiebwe was highly questionable to face Michigan State Tuesday night.

“I don’t know yet,” Calipari said. “He’s got to go through some workouts and if it swells or does stuff, we’re just going to have to wait. That surgery….he’s ahead of schedule, but you’ve got to be able to stop and turn. It’s not ligament or anything like that. But there was an operation where they went inside that area where it will be sore for a minute. So we’ll have to see.”

Against Duquesne the Wildcats had a balanced scoring attack. The Dukes featured a pair of gritty and athletic guards that did provide a challenge to the Cats. UK rose to the challenge playing tenacious defense and making it difficult for the Dukes to score. With the exception of Duquesne's scoring the first seven points of the second half, the Cats maintained a double-digit lead for the reminder of the game.

A few biased thoughts:

1. These Cats can shoot from the three-point line -- 45.9 percent for the night.

2. Cats are long and athletic which is going to result in a great defensive team.

3. High basketball IQ. Being guard heavy, the Wildcats have athletes who understand the game and see the whole court and can orchestrate play-making.

4. And we haven’t had OSCAR yet.

The Cats face Michigan State Tuesday night in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. Game time is 7 p.m. ET and it will be televised by ESPN.

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The 2022 UK Athletics Hall of Fame class was introduced at halftime, including former basketball star star Jim Andrews. Andrews lettered in 1971-72-73 (freshmen ineligible for varsity in those days), was first-team All-SEC as a junior and senior and helped lead the Wildcats to three consecutive SEC championships.

Penny Deatrick is a contributing writer from Louisville.

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