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Bob Dixon

Agency Manager


Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

Toppin Sparks Cats to 86-63 Victory Over Louisville

By Jamie H. Vaught

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The up-and-down Kentucky team ended the 2022 season on a festive note with an 86-63 victory over rival Louisville Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena. The win improved UK’s record to 9-4 with Louisville dropping to 2-12.

Jacob Toppin of Kentucky celebrates during Saturday's game at Rupp Arena (UK Athletics Photo by Chet White)

Leading the Wildcats on New Year’s Eve were Jacob Toppin, making his first start in two weeks, and Oscar Tshiebwe. Toppin gunned in a career-high 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Tshiebwe was impressive as well, hitting 24 points while pulling down 14 rebounds, including eight offensive boards.

The 6-foot-9 Toppin, who had struggled against Yale and UCLA in mid-December before losing his starting assignment against Florida A&M and Missouri, has seemingly overcome his slump.

It feels good and besides that I had been in a rough patch I needed to get out of,” said Toppin, who is from Brooklyn, N.Y. “I had a lot of support from my teammates and my coaching staff, and it just feels good to get back to my old self mentally and physically so we just move forward and try to get better as a team from here.

“I had a good talk with Coach Cal the other day and had a good talk with my teammates and called a few other people to get back to where I was mentally, and it helped a lot.”

Added Louisville coach and former UK assistant Kenny Payne, “Jacob Toppin is a good player. He is a high-level player and he is capable of dominating a game. We knew that he had struggled a bit coming into this game, but it’s a rivalry game—you know what’s going to happen. He’s going to play his best against us and we have to match that. What I was hoping to do was go at him with Brandon [Huntley-Hatfield] and I think what Brandon found out is that [Toppin] is an elite athlete with the way he moves. He’s quick, he can handle the ball well enough to get to spots on the floor, he can shoot decent enough, he is relentless and on top of his stuff, and he can get offensive rebounds.”

Cason Wallace of Kentucky goes up for a field goal against U of L Saturday afternoon. (UK Athletics Photo by Barry Westerman)

Tshiebwe’s outstanding performance marked his seventh double-double of the season, the best in the SEC. In his 45 career games at Kentucky, the 6-foot-9, 255-pounder has 35 double-doubles.

On Kentucky’s 23-point victory, Tshiebwe said, “We played good. Now we get to slow the game down a little bit because we were just rushing everything (in a loss to Missouri). Now, we get to slow down and are running plays and getting good shots. It was good.”

Tshiebwe also said he advised Toppin to ignore social media, telling him “you are good at what you do. Don’t let all the noise affect your mind. Get off social media, don’t pay attention to it. It is just not a good time right now on social media. Take it off of your phone, like I already did, and keep your mind locked in. The guy that came out today, that is the Jacob that everybody loves.”

Freshman Cason Wallace also had a fine game, getting 17 points, and five boards.

While Kentucky shot well, making 60 percent of its baskets, the Cats still struggled from the line, hitting 64 percent of the free throws.

* * *

Coach John Calipari, who is now 13-3 against U of L while at the helm of the Wildcats, was pleased to see his former assistant, Kenny Payne, getting a nice ovation from the crowd during the pregame festivities. Payne was pleased, too.

Said Payne, “I appreciate it. I respect Kentucky and I loved it here. To have them welcome me was great, but—I’ve said this over and over again—this isn’t about me. This is about these young men. I can’t make my program about me. Coming back to Louisville was about helping these young men get what they need to get to understand the treasures of playing at a university like Louisville. ”

* * *

Toppin was named the game's Most Valuable Player by the Bluegrass Sports Commission.

CBS analyst Bill Raftery and Associate to the Head Coach Bruiser Flint of Kentucky share a laugh during a pregame conversation Saturday at Rupp Arena. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught)

Toppin's achievement adds him to the list of previous award winners in the UK-U of L series in Josh Harrellson (UK-2010), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (UK-2011), Russ Smith (U of L-2012), James Young (UK-2013), Tyler Ulis (UK-2014/2015), Quentin Snider (U of L-2016), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (UK-2017), Tyler Herro (2018), Tyrese Maxey (2019), and Carlik Jones and David Johnson (U of L-2020).

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Kentucky's next game is a Tuesday night date with LSU at Rupp Arena. The 8 p.m. (ET) contest will be televised by ESPN.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of six books about UK basketball, including newly-released “Forever Crazy About the Cats: An Improbable Journey of a Kentucky Sportswriter Overcoming Adversity.” He is also the editor and founder of 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


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