The college basketball season is finally here, as the Kentucky Wildcats were in Rupp Arena for the regular season opener against New Mexico State.
Early on, it was obvious that this Kentucky team was going to be fun to watch while they were getting after it defensively and flying up and down the court.
Kentucky used a strong defensive effort to build an early 10-6 lead at the first media timeout of the season.
New Mexico State was not going to go away, however, as they continued to battle back when the Cats would make a run, and with just under 10 minutes to go in the half, it was a 20-15 ballgame.
Then, Reed Sheppard entered the game and sparked Kentucky on both ends of the floor.
Sheppard came up with a steal that led to a fast break dunk for his first points as a Wildcat. He then came up with his second steal that ended with a Jordan Burks putback to make it 27-20.
After knocking down three free throws, a defender went under the screen, and Sheppard drilled a three to make it 35-24.
After the first 20 minutes of the regular season, it was the Cats holding a 37-29 lead over the Aggies.
The second half got off to a great start for the Cats, as they outscored the Aggies 11-4 early on to take a 48-33 lead.
Kentucky used that momentum to keep the lead growing, and with just under 12 minutes to go, it was a 54-35 ballgame.
By the under-eight media timeout, the Cats were rolling as the lead grew to 65-44.
Down the stretch, the Cats continued to execute on both ends of the floor and were able to get a blowout 86-46 win in the season opener. Kentucky finished the game on a 17-0 run and outscored the Aggies 49-17 in the second half.
I think it is safe to say that after what we saw during the summer, we knew that Reed Sheppard would be important for this team.
However, I don’t think many expected him to shine as bright this early as he has, and on Monday night, he was phenomenal, making him the first MVP of the season.
In his first official half of college basketball, Sheppard had eight points, three rebounds, two steals, one assist, and one block while shooting 2/3 from the field and 3/3 from the free throw line.
The second for Sheppard continued to be impressive as he was getting after it defensively and making life tough for the opponents. He was actually named the UK Postgame Show Defensive Player of the Game by Goose Givens to give you an idea of just how big his impact there was.
Offensively, Sheppard just makes things happen with his high basketball IQ and seeing the floor very well. He finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks while shooting 4/6 from the field, 1/2 from three, and 3/3 from the free throw line.
No. 15 in white will deserve a ton of minutes for this team this season.
'Tis the season. pic.twitter.com/2YGVhCl4x6— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 7, 2023
Pat Adams inserting himself into the action early on.— John Huang (@KYHuangs) November 7, 2023
Great find by DJ Wagner. Justin Edwards hits a 3. DJ is so good at getting to his spots. Going to be tough to keep out of the paint.— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) November 7, 2023
I just love the way Thiero competes. He just never quits battling inside and outside.— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) November 7, 2023
Big fan of the pace this team plays with. So many guys that can grab a rebound and go. Running it right at you in transition. Instant pressure on you defensively.— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) November 7, 2023
Man, Kentucky gets the ball up the floor quickly— Locked On Kentucky (@LockedOnUK) November 7, 2023
Adou Thiero really impressing with a physical style of basketball tonight. 5 points, 5 rebounds and 1 blocked shot so far. Fighting for boards and driving at the basket.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) November 7, 2023
Reeves so smooth and confident. 2-for-2 on 3's tonight with 8 points and just does not force anything which I really like— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) November 7, 2023
Reed Sheppard has his first dunk as a Wildcat.— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) November 7, 2023
Sheppard already has multiple touches and deflections. How many hands does the guy have?— John Huang (@KYHuangs) November 7, 2023
Kentucky looks small. If only there were three 7-footers lying around ...— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) November 7, 2023
Man, Reed is gonna be so much more important to this basketball team than I even imagined.— BEEZY (@Burke_Franklin_) November 7, 2023
Dude is just a natural
Sheppard needs a LOT of minutes...— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) November 7, 2023
R33D !!!!!!— Cody Couch (@Couch_29) November 7, 2023
Jeff Sheppard is so intense watching his son he needs two seats. pic.twitter.com/OrUpY7VxF5— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) November 7, 2023
I can't believe I just saw a Kentucky team playing uptempo and shoot 13 3s in a half.— Bobby Reagan (@BarstoolReags) November 7, 2023
Offense will come but we are SO SO SO much better defensively than last year and we don’t even have a Center yet….— Big Blue Nation #BBN (@UKBasketbalI) November 7, 2023
Wagner even when he looks out of control keeps his poise and makes plays. Is even better point guard than I anticipated and love way he pushes tempo— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) November 7, 2023
So much movement. So much spacing. So much unselfishness. Refreshing.— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) November 7, 2023
Great extra pass by Tre Mitchell. Started with a paint touch from DJ Wagner. Rob Dillingham connects on a 3.— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) November 7, 2023
Feels like it's been a while since Kentucky had this kind of quickness on the perimeter. Finished with 13 steals on opening night.— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) November 7, 2023
This team passes the ball and shoots more threes than long twos. I dont even know who they are— Trill Withers (@TylerIAm) November 7, 2023
I love this UK team. They’re so fun— Lyndsey Gough (@LGonTV) November 7, 2023
Kentucky's backcourt depth is on full display tonight. So many guys that add something different to the mix.— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) November 7, 2023
Reed Sheppard brings so much energy to the Rupp Arena crowd that all his three-point baskets should count for 4.— John Huang (@KYHuangs) November 7, 2023
As reported by @tom_hart, Adou Thiero headed to the locker room after checking himself out of the game earlier in the second half.— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) November 7, 2023
I wish I had counted how many times a Cat got on the floor tonight for a loose ball. Can't coach that in close games and bodes well for future— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) November 7, 2023
Kentucky started this game 8-for-26 from the field.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) November 7, 2023
Kentucky finished the game by making 24 of 39 shots.
Cats credited with 14 layups, 5 dunks and 9 3-pointers. So, 28 of their 32 baskets came in one of those ways. https://t.co/RlLSDeDBME
Rob Dillingham can heat up in a hurry. Has the ability to just take over a game offensively and put on a show while doing it.— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) November 7, 2023
You can hear music playing the Kentucky locker room and the guys are singing. This team is having fun. pic.twitter.com/pmdmVvRQHB— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) November 7, 2023
Starting off hot. pic.twitter.com/sABA1KSOjq— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 7, 2023