LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)Oscar Tshiebwe had 24 points and 14 rebounds, Jacob Toppin added a career-high 24 points and No. 19 Kentucky shot a season-best 60% to dominate rival Louisville 86-63 on Saturday.
The battle for Bluegrass bragging rights resumed after a one-year pause with the Wildcats (9-4) jumping out quickly and surviving a couple of rallies by the Cardinals (2-12). Kentucky sorely needed a rebound game after dropping two of three, including its Southeastern Conference opener on Wednesday at Missouri, and responded by making nine of its first 12 attempts and finishing 33 of 55 from the floor.
Toppin, who went scoreless in 12 1/2 minutes off the bench at Missouri, started and made 10 of 15 with seven rebounds. The senior forward had 15 points by halftime and surpassed his previous scoring high of 20 midway through the second half.
Tshiebwe had his seventh double-double this season by halftime and came up one rebound shy of his fourth 20/15 effort this season. Last year’s consensus national player of the year was 10 of 13 shooting to offset missing 5 of 9 free throws.
El Ellis had 23 points for Louisville, which dropped its third in a row and failed to give first-year coach Kenny Payne a victory against the team he worked for 10 years as an assistant under John Calipari.
But it was a homecoming nonetheless. Payne and Calipari hugged and smiled at midcourt before player introductions. More hugs followed as Payne went down the Wildcats bench to greet other assistants and players and was applauded by the expectedly blue-clad crowd at Rupp Arena.
THE BIG PICTURE
Louisville: The Cardinals shot 47% and seemed intent on making it a game early in the second half. But they couldn’t slow Toppin or Tshiebwe, and things quickly slipped away in the final 10 minutes. They committed 15 turnovers that led to 19 Kentucky points and were outrebounded 33-20.
Kentucky: With nowhere to go but up after Missouri overwhelmed them, the Wildcats started fast and hot from the field and stayed on the gas. Toppin’s performance was long overdue and complemented Tshiebwe well. Free throws remain a concern as they made 16 of 25.
Kentucky: Hosts LSU on Tuesday night to resume SEC play
Louisville: Hosts Syracuse on Tuesday night in ACC play
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