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UNCW Brings Cats Back to Earth with Upset

Photo: Danny Pendleton - Bluegrass Sports Nation

Lexington, Ky – December 2, 2023 – Michael Willis

Kentucky faced off against UNC-Wilmington on a brand-new court for the last game in Rupp Arena until after Christmas. The Big Blue Nation was anticipating the debut of Aaron Bradshaw, who did make an appearance and scored 3 points in his 13 minutes. Despite being such a highly anticipated game, the Wildcat lost to the Seahawks 80 to 73

It was a slow start for the Cats who found themselves down 8 to 4 at the first media timeout. Then after the timeout two back-to-back three-pointers by UNCW prompted a timeout by Kentucky and the first time we would see Aaron Bradshaw enter the game. Bradshaw scored his first points as a Cat on a dunk that had the crowd excited. The woes continued through the first half and the Wildcats were down 14 points with 2:53 left in the half. Kentucky found a small spark to end the half and ended the half down 41 to 33.

The first half shooting cost the Cats any hope of a lead. The Wildcats made only 10 of their 26 shots. Kentucky also had 9 turnovers in the first half which gave UNCW 11 more shot attempts. 

The Cats hit their first three shots and first 3 free-throws that pulled them back within one with 16:56 left in the game. A three-pointer by Reed Sheppard gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game. After gaining a 6 point lead the Cats fell back into the lack of effort that got them in trouble in the first half. UNCW retook the lead with 10:46 left and never gave it back up.

Kentucky played uninspired defense the majority of the game which led to a lesser opponent keeping the lead for 34 minutes of the game. In the post-game press conference Calipari complained how Kentucky’s defense continued to allow drives to the basket. He also said that we didn’t move the ball the way they did up to this point. That is evident by the Cats only getting 14 assists and committing 13 turnovers. 

Reed Sheppard led the Cats in scoring with 25 points he also led in rebounds with 9 and assists with 6. Sheppard also played 39 of the 40 minutes. 

Many players struggled in tonight’s game. Rob Dillingham made only 1 of his 9 shots and uncharacteristically had 4 turnovers. Justin Edwards shot 4 of 14 missing all 5 of his three-point attempts.

It is obvious that Kentucky missed D.J. Wagner who would have given the Cats a better defensive presence and been able to move the ball better with his passing. Kentucky goes on the road for the next contest against Penn on Wed Dec. 6th at 6pm.

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