After its scheduled rivalry game against Louisville was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Cardinals’ program, No. 20 Kentucky found itself looking for a new opponent. What it found was another in-state opponent, and an opportunity to help a community in need.
Kentucky will host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Wednesday night in Lexington, Ky., in a game that will raise money for the victims of the recent tornadoes in the area. Western Kentucky was scheduled to play Austin Peay, but COVID-19 positives within Austin Peay’s program canceled that game and created an opening on the schedule.
The Wildcats (8-2) are coming off their most impressive performance of the season, a 98-69 domination of North Carolina on Saturday in Las Vegas. Sahvir Wheeler led the blistering offensive performance with 26 points on 12-for-15 shooting with eight assists, and Oscar Tshiebwe added a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
On defense Kentucky held the Tar Heels to just 1 of 13 (7.7 percent) from 3-point range and forced 12 turnovers. The Wildcats won the assists battle 20-9 and outrebounded North Carolina 44-26 in a comprehensive beatdown to win for the eighth time in its last nine games.
“That’s by far the best we’ve played,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the win. “And we’re still trying to figure it out. Sahvir hasn’t been close to that, maybe the Duke game, but at the end of the Duke game, he turned it over, (had some) bad shots, did some things. He played throughout.”
But while the Wildcats were picking up their biggest win of the season, the Hilltoppers were doing the same. Western Kentucky (8-4) pulled off an 82-72 upset win over Louisville.
Camron Justice scored a career-high 25 points and made five of Western Kentucky’s nine 3-pointers on the day. Four other players reached double figures — including Josh Anderson, who finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“Louisville’s got a really good team,” Hilltoppers coach Rick Stansbury said. “(Louisville coach Chris) Mack does a terrific job with that team, but we were pretty good today, too. And when you make shots, a lot of things work. I know in the first half we were 9 of 11 from the 3-point line.”
This will be the sixth time the two in-state programs have squared off, and the first time since they met in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, a game Kentucky won 81-66 en route to a national title. Western Kentucky’s last victory over Kentucky was a 64-52 win in the NABC Classic in 2001.
If Western Kentucky is going to pull off another upset win, it will have to do something no other team has done yet this season by winning at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky enters Wednesday night’s game with a 7-0 mark at home with an average margin of victory of 26 points per game.
–Field Level Media