Kentucky took the floor on Sunday evening looking to win their third straight game. The was a match-up ten years in the making. On November 14th, 2008, the VMI Keydets came into Rupp Arena and stunned the Billy Gillespie led Kentucky Wildcats. A loss most fans would like to forget. The Cats came in this year, as a 30+ point favorite, but it did not turn out to be so easy.
The Cats opened the game with nice ball movement against the match-up zone deployed by VMI which resulted in a three by Keldon Johnson. Kentucky was able to move the ball around and get several wide-open looks early in the game. Freshman, EJ Montgomery got his first career start against the Keydets and made his presence felt early with two rebounds and a block. Tyler Herro jumped in on the action knocking down a three of his own, and the Cats looked to be rolling on offense early.
VMI did not go away quietly as they knocked down six threes to start the game. Midway through the first half, the score was tied, 22-all. VMI was led by Bubba Parham who had nine points early. Despite the hot shooting, Kentucky crashed the boards again early and grabbed 7 offensive rebounds.
After VMI tied the game at 22, Kentucky turned up the defense in large part to Quade Green and Ashton Hagans who came up with back-to-back steals and pushed the tempo for the Cats. Both PJ Washington and Reid Travis were beneficiaries of the steals, scoring on the other end. Montgomery continued to bring energy and was rewarded with a big dunk during Kentucky’s run. Montgomery has also added three blocks in the first half. PJ Washington nearly secured a double-double in the first half with 11 points and 9 rebounds (6 offensive). Reid Travis came off the bench and led the Cats in scoring in the first half with 12 points but took a hard hit to the face and had to head to the locker room with an eye injury.
The Cats managed to stretch it out to a 14-point lead at halftime.
Kentucky 48, VMI 34 Halftime
VMI’s Bubba Parham was ready for the big stage. The 5’11 Sophomore had 15 points at halftime and came out firing in the second half as well. He led the charge as VMI mounted a strong come-back to pull within 10 points of the Cats. Parham knocked down 10 threes and hauled in 35 points against Kentucky, including a rainbow three over PJ Washington and another over Quade Green. Parham won the hearts of the BBN with his performance. Three-point shooting kept VMI in the game. In addition to Parham’s ten treys, the Keydets knocked home another nine to set the Rupp Area record with 19 made threes.
Just as VMI mounted a comeback and pulled the deficit within single digits, PJ Washington answered for the Cats with a nice and-one. Washington secured his first double-double of the season and the fourth of his career. He seems to be finding his groove with this coming just days after a 25-point, 7-rebound performance against North Dakota.
Despite 19 three-pointers and an all-world performance by Bubba, Kentucky held on for the nice 10 point victory. Kentucky has some defensive issues to work on, but overall had a strong offensive performance and came away with a hard-fought victory. Next up for the Cats, Winthrop on Wednesday at 1:00pm in Rupp Arena.
Kentucky 92, VMI 82 Final