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The threes weren’t falling, but defense and rebounding carry UK past North Florida

·3 min read
Alex Slitz

Many coaches — including John Calipari — frown on dependence on the three-point shot. They ask, what happens in the games the long-range shooting is off?

Kentucky’s 86-52 victory over North Florida provided an answer Friday.

For all the shooters on its roster, UK made only one of its first 13 three-point shots and finished 6-for-24 shooting from beyond the arc. Yet, Kentucky breezed to its fifth victory in six games to start the season.

No doubt, it helped playing North Florida, Going into the game, the Ospreys (now 1-6) were ranked 244th in Division I by stats savant Ken Pomeroy. Kentucky was No. 16.

It helped that North Florida did not shoot accurately from three-point range, either. Plus, the Ospreys committed 21 turnovers.

Among the North Florida players who struggled was Carter Hendricksen, the Lexington Christian Academy graduate. He made only three of 14 shots and committed four turnovers.

TyTy Washington and Dontaie Allen led a balanced UK attack with 14 points each. First-time starter Daimion Collins, Sahvir Wheeler and Oscar Tshiebwe scored 12 points apiece. Tshiebwe also grabbed 16 rebounds to give him his fifth double-double in six games.

The first half gave a hint at the answer to that earlier oft-asked question.

The usual staples cited when the three-point shots are not going in — defense and rebounding — carried Kentucky to a 37-23 halftime lead.

UK outrebounded North Florida 24-17 in the first half. That was no surprise given that Kentucky entered the game leading the nation in rebound margin (plus-20.4) while North Florida ranked 341th in Division I (minus-11.5 on average).

North Florida also committed a whopping 14 turnovers in the first half. That contributed to Kentucky’s 18-0 advantage in fast-break points.

As is fast becoming a familiar sight, Wheeler repeatedly drove for left-handed layups in transition. He was UK’s co-leader in first-half points with eight.

The other UK player with eight points was a surprise. Collins, the freshman who started in place of Keion Brooks, also scored eight points.

If such a record existed, Collins might have broke it for immediate activity.

After jumping on the opening tip in place of Tshiebwe, Collins blocked North Florida’s second shot. His putback dunk gave Kentucky its first points.

Before the first television timeout, Collins had also taken — and missed — his first two three-point shots and been called for charging.

The seemingly inevitable Kentucky halftime lead took shape down the stretch of the first half.

With North Florida ahead 16-14, Kentucky scored eight straight points to begin a 23-7 run in the half’s final 7:14.

Nothing much changed as the second half began.

After missing his first four shots (three from three-point range), Allen made a three to put UK ahead 46-28 with 16:22 left.

Next game

Central Michigan at No. 10 Kentucky

When: 7 p.m. Monday

TV: None

Streaming: ESPN Plus and SEC Plus

Five things you need to know from Kentucky’s 86-52 win over North Florida

Another Kentucky basketball player out with illness shakes up the UK starting lineup

Box score from Kentucky basketball’s victory over North Florida

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