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Wildcats' Second Half Opening Run Puts Flames Away
The seventh-ranked Wildcats scored 17 of the first 21 points of the second half to open up a single-digit halftime lead en route to an 81-51 post Thanksgiving Day victory over visiting Liberty, Friday evening, at Rupp Arena.
The contest was played in front of a near-capacity crowd at the hollowed basketball arena as 22,717 fans attended the contest, marking the largest crowd to ever see a Flames' basketball game. The previous record was 19,718 fans that saw the Flames square off against North Carolina in the opening round of the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky (4-1) took control of the game early as Bobby Perry picked up an offensive rebound and followed with a put-back basket to give the Wildcats a 10-3 lead at the 16:32 mark. But the Flames (1-2) were able to put together a 7-1 run and pulled within one, 11-10, as Larry Blair (Jr., G, Charlotte, N.C.) fed Damien Hubbard (Jr., F, Boyce, Va.) for a lay-up three minutes later.
The Wildcats responded with a run of the their own as a fast break dunk by Perry capped of a 13-4 run by Kentucky, giving the home team a 24-14 lead with 8:34 left to play in the first. But the Flames refused to go away as Liberty trimmed the lead to as few as four points(26-22 at the 5:41 mark) and managed to keep the Wildcats within reach as Kentucky headed into the locker room at halftime with a nine-point lead, 36-27, thanks in part to seven first half three-point field goals.
The two teams traded baskets on their opening possessions of the second half with Rekalin Sims knocking down a lay-up, while Blair answered back with a jumper just 28 seconds into the period.
However, Kentucky put the game out of reach for good as the Wildcats outscored the Flames 15-2 over the next five minutes with a jumper by Ramel Bradley pushing Kentucky's lead to 22 points, 53-31, at the 14:48 mark. The Flames managed to trim the lead below 20 points just once over the remainder of the period, while a dunk by Adam Williams with 26 seconds remaining sealed the 30-point victory for the Wildcats.
"It was certainly a privilege for our basketball team to compete against a program of Kentucky's caliber and we showed tonight that we can compete with teams at this level," commented head coach Randy Dunton. "We are a very young team and still learning, but I was pleased with our performance, especially the way that we played in the first half."
"Tonight was a big step for the progress of our program this season. It was nice to see people like Rell Porter set up on the glass and Damien Hubbard which helps expand our offense. Obviously, this young team has a long way to go, but we took steps in the right direction tonight against a top-quality program."
Kentucky had 13 players see action in the contest with 12 of the 13 finding the scoring column. Perry led the way with 22 points as he was 8-of-12 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range, while Rajon Rondo followed with 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Blair scored a season-high 26 points as he was 10-of-25 from the floor and 4-of-9 from three-point range, while adding a team-best five assists. Hubbard followed with 13 points, while Rell Porter (So., F, Pittsburg, Texas) finished with a career-high nine rebounds.
The Flames will conclude a brief two-game road swing as they travel just down the road from the Vines Center and square off against Longwood for the beginning of a home-and-home season series on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Willett Hall.