Kentucky’s Second Half Comeback Downs WVU
ESPN’s College Gameday broadcast had taken center court at the WVU Coliseum earlier Saturday morning, but when the main event came that evening, it proved to be a heavyweight bout.
West Virginia landed plenty of haymakers early to build a 17-point lead a few moments into the second half. But Kentucky withstood the shots and fought back with a 21-2 run to take a lead of its own. Suddenly WVU’s potential blowout was turned into a tight context, and the Wildcats ultimately prevailed, 83-76.
With the non-conference loss, No. 7 West Virginia fell to 16-5 overall, while UK improved to 16-6.
The contest was part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. WVU’s loss allowed the SEC to finish the day with a 6-4 advantage. It was the first time in five years the SEC has won the Challenge.
The West Virginia defeat certainly didn’t appear in the works in the first half.
Led by a combined six-of-six performance from beyond the arc – and sometimes well beyond the arc – by Jevon Carter and Beetle Bolden, West Virginia raced out to a 17-point first half lead. Despite some comeback tries by the Wildcats, WVU’s took a 48-33 lead into the lockerroom at halftime. Carter had 18 points and four assists in the first 20 minutes, though UK’s Kevin Knox countered with 15 of his own.
The youthful Wildcats, who started five freshmen Saturday, didn’t show any quit, though. They went on a 21-2 tear to turn a 17-point Mountaineer lead into a 58-56 UK advantage.
But just as visions of Texas Tech and Kansas comebacks began drifting through the heads of all West Virginia, Bolden hit two huge threes. Suddenly WVU was back in front 66-62 with just over eight minutes remaining.
But the ‘Cats kept fighting.
Using huge advantages in the second half at the foul line, where it was 18-of-18, and in the rebounding department, where it outboarded the Mountaineers 29-11, UK held a 74-71 lead when the clock ticked down towards one minute. A Bolden three tied the game, but only for a moment, as Knox countered with his own trey. And from there the Blue Grass visitors were able to hang on for the victory.
Carter finished with 26 points, but he was outdone by Knox, who had 34 for UK.
The Mountaineers will take to the road for their next game, traveling to Ames to face 11-9 Iowa State Wednesday evening. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. (Eastern), and the game will be broadcast by ESPNU.