Wildcats Roll Over South Carolina State in a 106-63 Blowout
By Jamie H. Vaught
LEXINGTON -- Like Kentucky’s two blowout victories over Howard and Duquesne last week, the Wildcats had another easy win Thursday night as they rolled over South Carolina State 106-63 at Rupp Arena.
Leading the hot-shooting Cats’ balanced scoring attack were five players who hit in double figures. Senior guard C.J. Fredrick gunned in 3 of 7 three-pointers and finished with a game-high 17 points. Other double-digit scorers were freshman Chris Livingston with 13 points, freshman Cason Wallace (12 points), sophomore Lance Ware (12 points on a perfect 6 of 6 shooting) and senior Antonio Reeves (11 points). In addition, all eleven scholarship players scored at least six points.
“I like to think of myself as a good shooter,’ said Fredrick, who also had a career-high four steals. “My job is to make shots and I didn’t make shots Tuesday (against Michigan State). I wish I could’ve made more shots, obviously, but you’ve got to deal with that. That’s how it is as a shooter, you’re not going to make them all. You’ve just got to trust yourself and trust your teammates.”
Kentucky junior Oscar Tshiebwe, who had a 22-point, 18-rebound performance in his team’s 86-77 setback against Michigan State Tuesday night, didn’t start against South Carolina State in his second game back after recovering from a knee injury and surgery. In 14 minutes, Tshiebwe made six points -- including a first-half highlight when he stole the ball and made a running dunk -- and grabbed seven rebounds. It marked the end of Tshiebwe’s streak of 17 straight double-doubles, including the final 16 games last season.
Senior Jacob Toppin of Kentucky notched a game-high nine rebounds along with eight points.
Senior Sahvir Wheeler earned a game-high 10 assists, while freshman Ugonna Onyenso blocked three shots and had six points in 12 minutes.
Overall, the Wildcats, who were picked by the league’s media to win the SEC regular season title, hit 39 of 68 field goals for 57.4 percent as compared to South Carolina State’s 35.3 percent. For three-point shooting, Kentucky hit 10 of 24 baskets for 41.7 percent.
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Lance Ware was asked about his team’s mood after the disappointing two-overtime loss to MSU and how the Wildcats approached practice.
“I mean we didn’t really have a full practice -- it was kind of a walk-through type of situation, but we kind of had a bad taste in our mouths,” he said. “Some stuff that we did, we kind of gave away the game. You know -- you can’t do much after the game is over besides watch film and get better. Yesterday was a big film day -- watching film, going over some of the mistakes we made, and fixing those things.”
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Kentucky’s next game is Sunday night when it visits second-ranked Gonzaga, which is coming off a 93-74 loss to No. 11 Texas Wednesday night.
Asked on how the Cats plan to match Gonzaga’s high energy especially after its loss to the Longhorns, Chris Livingston commented, “When any top team takes a loss like that, they’re going to bounce back. They’re going to come with energy and they’re going to come with fight. They’re not just going to lay down. So we’ve just got to come out, understand who we are, play like against ourselves, play up to the competition and play up to the level that Gonzaga is going to play with, because they’re definitely going to come out, high energy, locked in and ready to play. So we’ve got to do that, too.”
UK will fly to Spokane, Washington, on Friday to prepare for Sunday night's showdown. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. PT) at Spokane Arena and it will be televised by ESPN.
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.