Toppin, Tshiebwe & Reeves Lead Cats To 96-56 Win Over North Florida

By Jamie H. Vaught


LEXINGTON – Kentucky’s duo of seniors Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe guided the Wildcats to a nice 96-56 victory over North Florida with their “double-double” performance Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.


Toppin, who tied his career high of 16 points against Gonzaga earlier this week, did even better, hitting 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting, along with 10 rebounds. Tshiebwe had 16 points and 15 rebounds while adding a career-high five assists.

UK's Jacob Toppin shoots against North Florida in Wednesday night's action at Rupp Arena. (UK Athletics Photo by Chet White)

But it was senior Antonio Reeves who sparked Kentucky to a 54-23 lead at the intermission with 18 first-half points, including a buzzer-beater three-pointer, on 7 of 9 field goal shooting after starting for the first time as a Wildcat. Reeves, who finished with 20 points, is a transfer after three years at Illinois State.


“Antonio is definitely a spark for us,” agreed Toppin. “He can really score the ball. So when he gets going, it’s good for everyone because we feed off that type of energy. We see him make shots and everyone else is going to want to make shots. It holds everyone to a higher standard and

that’s good for us.”


Asked about getting into a shooting rhythm, Reeves said, “The rim got bigger for me. I just kept shooting the ball. There were a couple of times I missed. Shooters shoot, so I definitely have that mentality.”


Toppin, who played his freshman year at Rhode Island, said his shooting confidence is growing after two straight back-to-back career highs.


“As the season goes on, I’m going to get more confident, but that’s because of my teammates,” said Toppin. "I’m not worried about scoring right now. I’m worried about defense and rebounding, and the offense will come. I’m not really worried about my offense, I knew it would come. I still have ways to get better, but it will come as the season goes on.”


On his team's response after its disappointing 88-72 loss at Gonzaga, Toppin commented, “After a loss we always want to bounce back, and I think we did a good job of that. Obviously, there were some things that we could have done better. We still haven’t been good at executing plays, so we have to get better at that. Defensively, we had some break downs, but I think we were good defensively. Offensively, we have to play like that every game. We have to be able to spread the floor with pace, share the ball, and just make open shots when we have open shots. We’ll just get better as the season goes.”


UK, now 4-2, has the weekend off before returning to game action on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at home, hosting Bellarmine, which beat Louisville 67-66 two weeks ago. The game will be seen on SEC Network +, beginning at 7 p.m. ET.


Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of six books about UK basketball, including soon-to-be-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 Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via email at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.

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