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Reeves Leads CATS Over Illinois State

Antonio Reeves - photo by Danny Pendleton - Bluegrass Sports Nation

Reeves has 27 against Former Team in 96-70 win.

LEXINGTON – December 29, 2023

Kentucky finished out the 2023 calendar year hosting the Illinois State Red Birds.  The game marked a reunion of Kentucky Guard Antonio Reeves facing his old team the Illinois State Red Birds.  Reeves attended Illinois State for three years before Transferring to Kentucky before the beginning of the 2022 Basketball season.  Reeves was phenomenal in the game, finishing the game with 27 points, in the first half Reeves was the leading scorer with 12 points.

Kentucky may have won this game by a convincing score and cruised to an easy victory, but the CATS still have room for improvement.  Rebounding could have been better as the CATS were outrebounded by the Red Birds and the Two seven-foot centers Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso only combined for six points and three rebounds.  Illinois State outrebounded the CATS 45-40.  Even though Kentucky struggled to rebound the ball, the CATS were led in scoring by Antonio Reeves with a game high 27 points.  Reed Sheppard and Robet Dillingham provided the spark needed off the bench, and once again the offense is just better with the two Freshmen in the lineup.  The two combined for twenty seven points, with Dillingham scoring 16 points, and Sheppard with 11 points.   Sheppard and Dillingham combined for seven assists to only three turnovers.  Sheppard was superb on the defensive end coming up with two steals and two blocks.

First Half- Kentucky and Illinois State stayed close for the first few minutes of the game with the Redbirds leading 13-9 early in the contest.  Kentucky Freshmen Justin Edwards was good in the first half scoring five points in the first few minutes of the game.   Reeves was the leading scorer for Kentucky in the half, finishing the game with a team high twelve points.  Once Kentucky inserted Shepherd and Dillingham the spark was created with CATS scoring 15 points compared to only giving up three points.  By midway through the first half Kentucky had developed a comfortable ten- point lead.  Shepherd made his presence known by knocking down a three point basket grabbing two rebounds, 2 assists and blocking a shot in transition.   Shepherd finished the half with eight points.  At intermission Kentucky led Illinois State 45-30

Second half- Kentucky come out of the gate hot in the second half and expanded on the lead, at one point growing the lead to twenty- eight points.  Reeves continued to make baskets in the second half scoring 15 points while making three shots from behind the ARC.  The lineup with Reeves, Sheppard, Dillingham, Mitchell, and Wagner showed the most chemistry and put the game out of reach quickly in the second half.  Sheppard defense was spectacular and impacted the game with 2 steals in the second half and a highlight reel block, that brought Rupp Arena to its feet.  The game was never really in jeopardy of slipping away in the second half and Kentucky cruised to a twenty-six-point win, defeating Illinois State 96-70.

Kentucky has now finished the Non- Conference Schedule are currently 10 and 2 ranked #8 in The AP Poll.  Kentucky will begin SEC play on January 6th, 2024 on the road against the Florida Gators.  The game has officially been sold out and the Gators will be a challenge for this Kentucky team.  This Kentucky team has rejuvenated the fan base and has the potential to really be special come March madness. 

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