In a highly anticipated matchup between two top-12 teams in college basketball, the blue blood was able to stomp out the up-and-coming Miami Hurricanes as the Kentucky Wildcats dominated in a 95-73 win on their home court.
The Hurricanes have become accustomed to the sharp shooting ability of Wooga Poplar. The three-point prowess of Poplar is among the best in the country and has bailed Miami’s offense out at times.
Reed Sheppard was a real difference-maker for the Wildcats. The ‘Cats leading scorer had 21 points, went 5-of-9 from beyond the arc and was one of five Kentucky players to score in double figures. Overall, Kentucky shot 60% from the field compared to Miami’s 44%.
Miami entered this game with an undefeated 5-0 record and an eighth-overall ranking among college basketball teams. It was headed into a hostile environment to play a very skilled Kentucky team. This was one of the biggest non-conference games Miami has played in a while and was certainly the biggest game of the year thus far.
Poplar did all he could for the Miami offense early, as he started off 4-of-4 with nine points. The ‘Canes struggled to find offense outside of Poplar and Omier when the forward checked out the game less than four minutes in with an offensive foul.
With Omier out, Kentucky was able to go on a run that gave it the lead before Miami went on an emphatic 18-2 run to retake the lead with just under eight minutes to play. This was very much a game of runs, and the Wildcats responded to that with a run of their own to take the lead by five at halftime, 42-37.
Poplar was elite in the first half, with 13 points to go along with seven rebounds. The Philadelphia native was the team leader in both categories in the first half for the ‘Canes. He was effectively silenced in the second half, as were the rest of the starters.
Kentucky came out hot to start the second half. Kentucky went on a 9-2 scoring run before a Miami timeout. It did not get better from there. Kentucky outscored Miami 39-20 in the first ten minutes of the second half and 53-36 overall.
Omier fouled out with 7:41 to play in the game. Omier finished with 20 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes of play. The foul trouble for Omier has been a point of emphasis for the ‘Canes all year, and it came back to bite them in this one.
Miami is typically a team that excels in transition and moves the ball well. Neither was true in Lexington. Kentucky outscored the ‘Canes 23-7 in terms of fast break points and was terrific at forcing turnovers with nine steals on the night.
The Wildcats were also able to move the ball incredibly efficiently in the game. Led by Rob Dillingham’s nine assists, the Wildcats had a 26-6 advantage in the assist department. The Wildcats were routinely swinging the rock to find the open look and knocking those shots down.
This was the first big test of the year for Miami in a hostile environment. Kentucky ended up beating Miami at its own game. The ‘Canes played well in the first half and had some impressive runs, but Kentucky came out swinging in the second half, and the ‘Canes were never able to punch back.
Notre Dame comes into town this Saturday in a big-time ACC clash. Miami looks to rebound and make sure this loss does not turn into a losing streak. The tip-off for this matchup is set for noon.