After Kentucky’s two-point loss at North Carolina last Saturday and a sluggish first half against Notre Dame, the Wildcats looked like they might be in line for their first two-game losing streak of the John Calipari era.
But after holding the Fighting Irish (No. 23 AP) to one field goal over a 15 ½-minute stretch, Kentucky (No. 17) ended Notre Dame’s undefeated start on the way to a marquee win.
Terrence Jones scored 27 points and snagged 17 rebounds and Brandon Knight added 20 points as the Wildcats beat the Irish 72-58 in Louisville, Ky., in the SEC/Big East Invitational Wednesday night.
Ben Hansbrough led Notre Dame with 21 points. He hit five of his first six 3-pointers, including the 200th of his career, but cooled off along with his teammates in the second half, missing his final three treys.
After Kentucky (6-2) erased Notre Dame’s 11-point lead with a 13-2 run to close the first half, the Wildcats took advantage of an Irish offensive drought to open up a big lead. Jones scored on the first possession of the second half and Knight canned two free throws and a jumper. Darius Miller, Knight and DeAndre Liggins all sank treys to put Kentucky up 56-46 with about 9 minutes left.
Meanwhile, during the 15 ½-minute stretch ending with 9:30 left in the second half, Notre Dame (8-1) was 1-for-13 from the field, which didn’t knock the Irish out of contention but crippled their chances to win.
Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott cut the Kentucky lead to 62-57 with a putback jumper with just over 3 minutes left, but the Irish could get no closer. Jones sank a 3 in the corner and added a pair of free throws. Miller canned one from the charity stripe and Knight and Jones added two more apiece down the stretch to win going away.
The only possible downer for the Wildcats came when Knight hobbled off with 31.5 seconds to go after going down in a pile under the Notre Dame basket, appearing to favor his left leg. He appeared to be receiving treatment for a cramp in front of the Wildcats bench.
The Irish put together the first run of the game, using a 12-2 spurt to take an early lead. Hansbrough drained a pair of 3s and Scott made a thunderous dunk, then hit a layup during the run to give Notre Dame a 27-20 lead.
Notre Dame then opened up a double-digit lead when Hansbrough hit a jumper and a 3-pointer and Tim Abromaitis made a jumper and two free throws, putting the Irish ahead 38-27 with about 4:45 to go in the first half.
But the Wildcats made a 13-2 run to close the half to tie the score at the break. Jones dunked, Stacey Poole Jr. hit a 3, Knight made a layup, Doron Lamb sank a baseline jumper and two free throws and Knight drove the lane and made a floater to tie the score at 40.
Scott scored 10 points for Notre Dame.
NOTES: Kentucky is 42-18 all-time in this series. The Wildcats have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Irish. Their lone loss was in the 2009 NIT quarterfinals, the final game of coach Billy Gillispie’s tenure. … Kentucky is 59-18 all-time at Freedom Hall, the former home of their archrival Louisville. Notre Dame is 11-35 in that building. … This game marked the first time this season the Irish have been outrebounded. Kentucky pulled down 40 boards to Notre Dame’s 33. … The 8-0 start was Notre Dame’s best since 1973-74. … The Irish had won five straight games against SEC opponents, including a victory over Georgia in the Old Spice Classic this season. … Kentucky hosts Indiana Saturday evening. Notre Dame returns to action Saturday night against Gonzaga.
Photo above: Terrence Jones (3) alters Ben Hansbrough's layup attempt Wednesday. (Clay Jackson/Danville Advocate-Messenger)
Video credit – ESPN