For a few minutes Saturday evening, it looked like Kentucky might actually get a little competition during this four-game preseason run in the Bahamas.
That didn’t last long.
The Wildcats did to Carleton University on Saturday what they had done to two other opponents earlier in the week: run them off the basketball court. UK defeated the college team from Canada by a score of 118-56, its third consecutive blowout on this summer trip.
Jacob Toppin put on a shooting display for the Wildcats, connecting on his first eight jump shots of the game, including three made three-pointers. Toppin finished with 27 points, going 11-for-14 from the floor and making five of six three-point attempts. He also had six assists.
The senior forward has been working on his shooting ability after going through the NBA Draft process in the spring, and he’s been impressive in that regard in his first few appearances for the Wildcats this summer. Toppin took just 10 three-pointers (and made four of them) in 29 games last season. Through three games in the Bahamas, he’s gone 7-for-12 from deep, but his ability to create off the dribble and open up mid-range opportunities for himself was arguably the most impressive aspect of his performance Saturday night.
Antonio Reeves also had a great shooting night, finishing with 23 points and going 8-for-12 from the field and 5-for-8 from three-point range.
Sahvir Wheeler chipped in with 17 points and six assists (with just one turnover), and Oscar Tshiebwe managed eight points and 13 rebounds in 22 minutes on the court.
Kentucky was 15-for-30 from three-point range Saturday. The Cats also had 26 assists in the game.
UK assistant coach K.T. Turner said on the pregame radio show that John Calipari had been pleased with the Wildcats’ ability to run the floor in the two previous games on the Bahamas trip, and they scored plenty in transition to start things off Saturday night.
“We’re playing at a fast pace, and he wants to play at a fast pace,” Turner said. “And we have some really good athletes that can get up and down the court. Just playing athletic. And the way we’re playing together, too — our guys are really playing together as a team.”
Through three games on this trip, Kentucky has tallied 74 assists to just 29 turnovers. Going into Saturday’s game, nine different Wildcats were averaging at least 10 points per game, with no one averaging more than 13.5.
“These guys are sharing the ball,” Turner said. “Everybody can play on the team. Even the walk-ons. So there’s no need to play selfish. Guys are going to get you the ball, and you’re going to get your shots. Some guys are going to have bigger nights — at certain times — than others, but everybody’s going to get their turn to have big nights.”
Kentucky and Carleton were actually tied at 4-all about three minutes into the game, with the Wildcats missing four of their first five shots of the night. Things quickly turned from there, with UK going on a 19-2 run that ultimately turned into a 35-6 flurry. By that point, the Cats led 39-10, and the game’s outcome had long been decided.
UK was up by 69 points when the first walk-ons got onto the court with 4:10 left in the game.
Earlier in the week, Kentucky defeated the Dominican Republic National Select Team by 52 points, and UK beat Tec de Monterrey (Mexico) by 62 points.
The Carleton basketball team has won 16 of the last 19 national championships in Canada, though they lost a lot of talent from last season’s title squad. Before the game against Kentucky on Saturday night, Carleton had been defeated 98-64 by Florida State and 104-91 by Northeastern University in recent days.
This was Carleton’s 100th game against an American Division I team since 1999, and the Ravens now have a 43-57 record in those matchups.
Kentucky starting lineup
As promised, Calipari sent out another unique starting lineup Saturday night, with Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware as the first five. It was the first start of the week for Wallace, Fredrick, Livingston and Ware, while Toppin is now the only Wildcat to start in all three games in the Bahamas. (Ware missed Thursday’s game with a shoulder injury but was obviously fine to play Saturday night).
Calipari said earlier this week that he would have a different starting lineup for each of the four games on this trip. New UK assistant K.T. Turner was the acting head coach for Saturday’s game, with Calipari once again evaluating the team from the crowd. Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman coached the Cats in the first two games, and Bruiser Flint will be in charge on the sidelines for the finale.
The final game on this Bahamas trip will be played at noon Sunday, with the Kentucky Wildcats facing the home team. It’ll be UK vs. the Bahamas National Team, and — like all of the previous games on the trip — it will be shown live on the SEC Network and broadcast on the UK radio network with live streaming available on UKAthletics.com.
The Wildcats will head back to Lexington after the game Sunday evening, and the team is likely to get a bit of a break before fall practices start up.