LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)Cason Wallace scored a career-high 27 points to help No. 19 Kentucky beat Florida A&M 88-68 on Wednesday night.
The 6-foot-4 freshman guard also had four steals and nine assists.
Wallace scored the first seven points of the second half for the Wildcats (8-3) as they took a 69-48 lead. The Rattlers (2-8) answered with a 14-0 run, cutting the deficit to seven points on Jaylen Bates’s 3-pointer. Wallace steadied Kentucky with a jumper and an assist on Antonio Reeves’ dunk.
”It felt good going out there, playing with the guys and coming out with a win,” Wallace said. ”I came into the game with a different mindset, trying to get to the basket a little bit, instead of shooting so many threes and being more aggressive on offense worked for me tonight.
”We got a win against a pretty good team and we’ve just got to keep it going.”
Wallace was 10 of 15, going 5 of 6 on 3s.
”He made shots tonight. We got to keep working with him as he plays point,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. ”He’s a terrific player.”
Bates led the Rattlers with 21 points and Dimingus Stevens added 13 points.
Oscar Tshiebwe scored 14 points for Kentucky.
Calipari had said he would change the lineup to get a better flow on offense after the Wildcats lost to UCLA on Saturday. He did just that starting, Lance Ware and Chris Livingston in place of Jacob Toppin and Antonio Reeves. Sahvir Wheeler, Tshiebwe and Wallace were the other starters. That starting lineup was the same one that Kentucky started in the second half against UCLA that helped the Wildcats battle back to a tie before losing 63-53 on Saturday.
”Lance is physical. We are not getting bullied when he is in there,” Calipari said. ”You put him in he mixes it up. He defends, he talks.”
The new lineup provided a quick spark as the Wildcats raced to an 18-2 lead, with Wallace scoring seven of the team’s first 13 points.
Calipari continued to mix and match lineups, and saw some success from players who had struggled of late. CJ Frederick came off the bench and hit four threes.
THE BIG PICTURE
Kentucky: Free-throw shooting continued to plague the Wildcats, ranked 293rd in the country. Kentucky was 13 of 19 after going 5 of 13 against UCLA.
”The free throw shooting is driving me crazy. We should be one of the best in the country,” Calipari said. ”We are missing the front ends of one-on-ones. It’s demoralizing. That is mental toughness.”
Florida A&M: The Rattlers enjoyed one of their better shooting nights against a challenging schedule that has included three SEC teams. They shot 52% from the floor and 56% percent from 3-point range.
”This is the best we have shot it all year. I think we are capable of shooting it better than we have,” Florida A&M coach Robert McCullum said. ”We have one of our better perimeter shooters tonight for just his second game (Stevens). He has given us a lift off the bench we have not had.”
Kentucky: Starts Southeastern Conference play at Missouri on Dec. 28.
Florida A&M: At top-ranked Purdue on Dec. 29.
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