Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari issued the warning earlier in the week and Richmond delivered on Sunday afternoon, as the unranked Spiders upset No. 10-ranked Kentucky 76-64 at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.
Richmond, picked to win the Atlantic 10 Conference this season, led by as many as 16 points and had little trouble with a young Kentucky team that was 0-for-10 from behind the three-point arc, had 21 turnovers and missed 13 free throws. It was just the second time in 33 seasons that Kentucky failed to make a three-point attempt.
Kentucky, now 1-1, was led in scoring by BJ Boston with 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting. Olivier Sarr finished with 17 bounds and 11 rebounds and Terrence Clarke added 15. Blake Francis and Nathan Cayo led Richmond with 18 points each.
Sarr, the Wake Forest transfer, was fantastic early on, scoring Kentucky’s final six points of the half on an offensive stick back followed by four free throws to give the Wildcats a 32-28 lead at halftime. To start the second half, Clarke scored UK’s first four points on a bucket and two free throws before Richmond would drain a three pointer to cap a 9-2 run that gave the Spiders a 39-36 lead at the 16:26 mark. Clarke then tied the game at 39-all after driving the baseline and hitting a free to throw to complete a traditional three-point play.
That’s when things turned ugly for the Wildcats, who struggled offensively with turnovers and poor decision-making as Kentucky’s final lead was at the 15:03 mark when Boston scored on a stick back to give the Cats a 41-39 advantage. Richmond then controlled the second half, pulling ahead 51-44 with 10:42 remaining on a Francis three-pointer that resulted in a Kentucky timeout. A pair of Richmond three pointers then extended the lead to 63-50 with 4:27 remaining and a Cayo dunk and final three pushed the lead to 72-56 to seal a convincing road win for the Spiders.
As the Kentucky offense looks to hit the reset button, the one bright spot was the play of Sarr, who was on fire early, scoring 14 first half points to go with seven rebounds. The 7-0 center was recently ranked among ESPN’s Top 25 players this season and will have to take on a big load this season to keep the Wildcats competitive.
Unfortunately, Sarr struggled with his shooting in the second half and made too many turnovers to truly be considered Kentucky’s go-to-guy this early in the season. However, he did show his maturity and leadership ability, taking a charge on the defensive end and staying active on the glass as the Wildcats outrebounded Richmond 54-31. Isaiah Jackson, playing with a sore ankle, had a game-high 14 rebounds, while Boston had 10.
Kentucky, 1-1, now travels to Indianapolis on Tuesday night to take on No. 6-ranked Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic.