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Bob Dixon

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Middlesboro, KY 40965

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Go Big Blue!

PENNY'S POINT: Cats Overcome Slow Start To Defeat Bellarmine


Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky in action against Bellarmine Tuesday night at Rupp Arena. (UK Athletics Photo by Grant Lee)

By Penny Deatrick The Kentucky Wildcats extended their homecourt winning streak to 24 games with a gutsy win over a well-coached and disciplined Bellarmine Knights team Tuesday night at Rupp Arena. In his postgame news conference, UK coach John Calipari likened playing Bellarmine to a trip to the dentist. Based on personal experience, this would mean it’s a painful but necessary evil. Most Wildcat fans would agree that a trip to the dentist’s office might have been a better option for the first half. Bellarmine, with their methodical passing and back screening, proved to be more than a match for the taller and more athletic Wildcats. The score was tied at 21 at the half. The second half began with Bellarmine jumping out to a four-point lead. With about four minutes gone in the second half, Kentucky began to push the ball up court, play aggressive defense and most importantly hit some shots, ultimately leading to a final score of 60-41 with the Cats on top. Kentucky limited Bellarmine to 41 points, which was the fewest for a UK opponent since the 2015 NCAA tournament. UK’s size advantage enabled them to dominate the rebounding, 42 to 21. UK won the inside the paint scoring by a margin of 28-8. Leading the Wildcats in scoring was Antonio Reeves, who gunned in 18 points. Reeves continued his streak of hitting at least one three-pointer in each game this season. Oscar Tshiebwe had eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds. He blocked three shots and had two steals. Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport stressed his appreciation for Cal’s comments and speaking out in support of his team’s desire to play in the NCAA tournament. “That’s what makes people extraordinary. Caring is an incredible talent, and we can all learn from that,” Davenport said. The comment was in regard to an NCAA rule prohibiting teams new to Division I from playing in Division II. The school must complete a four-year process to complete the reclassification. During that time, it is ineligible to compete for NCAA championships at either the D-II or D-I level. On Bellarmine’s incredibly difficult schedule during the first months of the season, Davenport said, “They’ll never forget that experience for the rest of their life. Pauley (Pavilion at UCLA), Cameron (Indoor Stadium at Duke) and Rupp Arena. Playing at the lights at Cameron and UCLA and Rupp Arena, that is the key component in playing because it puts the players first.” According to Bellarmine's pregame notes, Bellarmine one of the five schools to play at Cameron Indoor, Pauley Pavilion, and Rupp Arena, and the Knights are the first team to do it in a single season. Coach Cal reiterated that this was a hard game to play. “We’ve got guys cramping in there," said Calipari. "We had, I think, 31 out of 48 stops. We forced shot clock violations. But you had to play the whole clock. “In the second half, I just said, ‘Look guys, we’re going to have to grind it with them. If we have something easy, take it. If not, we’ll grind it out.’ So that was what was good about the last three days.” And Coach Cal was referring to practice sessions where this was a focal point. Calipari stated that Davenport’s done a great job with the Knights program and for them to have to wait to compete in the NCAA tourney is just not right for the kids. He’s hoping the NCAA will reconsider as they have done in the past. Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to London, England, to face Michigan on Sunday (ABC, 1 p.m.) Penny’s Personal Perspective Coach Davenport is a fantastic coach. More importantly, he is a family man and huge community advocate. He volunteers his time at local schools where he gives motivational talks to students about positive attitudes and studying and working hard. Earlier this year a banner was hung naming him a “Hometown Hero.” The huge banner was hung outside Iroquois High School in Louisville. He was, as always, humble and gracious when he was surprised by this ceremony. He told this story last night that his precious four-year-old granddaughter was coming to the game with his wife. She asked if they could fly in the plane again instead of riding in a car. He laughed, saying they had created a monster.


Penny Deatrick is a contributing writer from Louisville, Ky.

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