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Rewind: Cats snare testy victory

Dec. 15, 2012
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.

Ryan Harrow scored 12 points in Kentucky's 88-50 victory (Matt McCarty/TCP)

Kyle Wiltjer got his groove back, coming off the bench to hit seven three-pointers and record his first career double-double as Kentucky pulled away from Lipscomb for an 88-50 victory.

Wiltjer did not start for the first time this season but entered just 1:57 into the game, quickly stroking a pair of triples. The sophomore forward finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds to help turn a close game early in the second half into a blowout.

The game was testy from the outset, as UK guard Ryan Harrow and Lipscomb guard Deonte Alexander were told to cool it as they exchanged words just minutes into the game. Alexander was assessed a technical foul before the contest was three minutes old and ejected with 11:39 remaining after picking up his second technical while jawing with Nerlens Noel. The UK freshman forward was also T'd up on the exchange.

on frustration over UK's inconsistent effort
“What's going to happen is there are going to be questions of why don't you guys have energy? Why aren't you playing? Why aren't you competing? Are you afraid? What are you afraid of? I mean, somebody behind me said, 'Alex is standing straight up and down.' I went, 'Wow, you guys are watching it too, huh?'

“I thought we came out in the second half, did some nice things, got the game down to 10 with 16 minutes to go and from that point on, no disrespect to Kentucky, but I think we more self-destructed than it was them. We turned the ball over 24 times and they were self-inflicted than they were because of Kentucky.” – Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson

“We had just started the game, and dude bumped me. I was like, 'OK, he's just bumping me. That's just part of basketball.' Then he bumped me again, and he says something. I was like, 'OK, I got into it with somebody last game. I'm not trying to do that. Then he did it to me again. I was like, 'Alright, I can't do this. I got to say something.' Then the ref said something to us, and I was like,' Alright, I'm going to just chill.' Then he came up to me again. That's when he got the technical foul. Coach was just like, 'Clap your hands, hit the floor and do it like that, but don't say anything to him.”– UK guard Ryan Harrow, on Lipscomb's Deonte Alexander, who was later ejected with two technical fouls

Kyle Wiltjer had been in a horrible shooting slump, connecting on just 5-of-30 three-pointers (16.7 percent) over the previous six games while looking completely out of rhythm on both ends of the floor. He then began the game on the bench for the first time this season, but entered less than two minutes in after Alex Poythress got off to an indifferent start. From there things began changing for Wiltjer, who grabbed three rebounds and handed out an assist in three minutes before stroking his first triple. That seemed to ignite the streaky sophomore, who tied his career-high with seven three-pointers and set a new high for rebounds (12).

Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson noted after the game that he continued telling his team during halftime that Kentucky's young squad would present opportunities for the Bisons to get back in the game and that's exactly what happened in the opening minutes of the second half. Lipscomb scored four quick points and trailed by just 10 with 16:53 remaining before the Cats suddenly began gobbling up rebounds and getting better shots. By the time Noel and Lipscomb's Alexander drew double technical fouls for jawing at each other the lead had ballooned to 61-39 with 11:39 left in the game.

Nerlens Noel only played 22 minutes before fouling out, in part because of a technical foul he was slapped with during a second half incident but he packed a lot of production into that time. The freshman forward scored seven points, hauled in nine rebounds, blocked seven shots and produced four steals in the game. Noel now has 28 steals - 17 more than any other UK player – and 39 blocked shots on the season.

Kentucky took advantage of a packed Rupp Arena to introduce new football coach Mark Stoops, who along with several of the Cats' new assistant coaches was hosting several recruits, including highly regarded Frankfort athlete Ryan Timmons. Stoops came out as the traditional 'Y' in the spelling of Kentucky early in the second half to a standing ovation and loud applause before later tweeting about the support the fans showed him.

Kentucky coach John Calipari noted once again how far his team has to go to be able to compete in Southeastern Conference play, which is approaching faster than he would probably like. There were improvements for UK but once again they seemed far too incremental instead of the larger steps you saw in past years. Add to that Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson joined the chorus of opposing coaches who didn't exactly sound overly impressed with the Cats at this stage and it's beginning to become clear this may be a wildly inconsistent year.

Kentucky (7-3) will take another week off before returning to Rupp Arena at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22 against Marshall.

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