Despite playing with just eight scholarship players, the Kentucky Wildcats opened the basketball season with a 95-63 win over Howard on Monday night at Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats finished with four players in double-figures with Antonio Reeves leading the way with 22 points. CJ Fredrick finished with 20 points, while Cason Wallace and Jacob Toppin added 15 each. Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler did not play due to lingering injuries, while Daimion Collins is still away from the team after the unexpected passing of his father last week.
Both teams struggled early from the field as Kentucky jumped out to a 16-10 lead. However, the Wildcats finally started to heat up over the last eight minutes of the first half, outscoring Howard 25-10 to cruise to the first win of the season.
Despite the offensive fireworks, it was Kentucky’s defense that was most impressive, holding Howard to just 28 percent from three-point range. Freshman Ugonna Onyenso, a 6-foot-11 center from Nigeria, made a huge impact in his first game as a Wildcat, causing havoc around the rim and finishing with six points, four rebounds and four blocks.
The No. 4-ranked Wildcats will be back in action on Friday night at home against Duquesne.
In their first official game in Rupp Arena, CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves were on fire on Monday night and get the nod for Co-MVP honors.
Both of Kentucky’s top shooters come from the transfer portal (Fredrick from Iowa and Reeves from Illinois State) and should be a lethal one-two punch when on the floor together this season. Toppin also proved to be another solid offensive weapon against Howard, finishing with his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Wallace was also outstanding in his debut, just missing a triple-double with 15 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds.
Now in his 14th season, UK Coach John Calipari has set a goal to score 80 points per game this season, an easy task on Monday night as the Wildcats were 11-for-24 from three-point range.