Men’s basketball: UVU gives #5 Kentucky scare before falling 73-63

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Photo courtesy of Jay Drowns/UVU

LEXINGTON, KY — The UVU men’s basketball team held a 12-point lead over the No. 5-ranked Kentucky Wildcats early in the second half, but ultimately fell 73-63 in Rupp Arena Friday night.

Kenneth Ogbe threw down a dunk and was fouled on the play to begin the second half and send a scare into the home-team’s fans. The play shifted the momentum toward the Wolverines and with the free-throw, UVU led 37-25. Kentucky answered with an 18-0 run in three minutes and took a five-point advantage.

The Wildcat run, which was the difference in the game, was spurred by a defensive adjustment by UK head coach John Calipari to move from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone. Several turnovers and highlight reel dunks in transition put Kentucky in a position to run away with the game.

The Wolverines were able to cut the lead to one point and limit Wildcat scoring to just 10 points over the next seven minutes of play. They kept the game within 10 points until fatigue creeped in with about seven minutes of action left and Kentucky absorbed any comeback effort in sight.

Ogbe, who finished the game with a team-high 12 points and seven rebounds, was impressive in the season debut after missing the exhibition against Dixie State while recovering from an injury sustained in the offseason.

Jake Toolson, the transfer from BYU, made his presence on offense known early, slashing to the basket and drawing contact. Toolson and Isaac Neilson finished the first half tied with team-leading eight points a piece. Toolson would hit a 3-pointer in the second half to take his game total to 11 points.

UVU held an 18-14 lead midway through the first half before the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run to take a five-point lead. At that point, the Wolverines, led on offense by senior guard Brandon Randolph went on a 16-2 run of their own. Randolph was slashing through the paint and finding teammates for open looks, including Neilson for several layups.

The Wolverines dominated the Wildcats on the boards in the first half, snagging 25 rebounds to UK’s 16. Neilson had seven in the first half. The second half was another story, however, as UK out-rebounded UVU 22-14. Neilson was able to grab just one more board. He finished the game with 10 points.

Three-pointers were not falling for UVU early on and its success on offense was coming strictly in the paint. It ended the night just 5-18 from beyond the arc for a 27 percent clip.

UVU will move onto the next leg of its “Toughest 24” challenge where it faces No. 1-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium with first tip set for 5 p.m. MDT on the ACC Network.