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No. 2 Kentucky bounced back from an embarrassing 118-84 loss to No. 4 Duke in the Champions Classic on Tuesday to win its home opener Friday night 71-59 over Southern Illinois, which was making its season debut.
Kentucky (1-1) was led by freshmen Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickley with 15 points each, but the spark came from sophomore Quade Green’s 14 points off the bench. Sophomore Nick Richards added 19 rebounds.
Kentucky shot 44.4 percent but outrebounded SIU 49-20. The Wildcats had 11 assists and 19 turnovers.
Southern Illinois, which returned all five starters from a 20-win team and finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference last year to NCAA Tournament darling Loyola-Chicago, was led by junior Aaron Cook with 18 points and 16 from senior Kavion Pippen, nephew of former NBA great Scottie Pippen.
Southern Illinois led for 19:31 compared to Kentucky’s 17:40. There were five lead changes and three ties.
UK put the game away in the second half with a 16-7 run to push a one-point lead to double digits at 67-57 with 3:00 remaining. Johnson had seven of the 16.
SIU shot only 41.1 percent from the field despite a clever attempt by coach Barry Hinson to replicate UK’s front-court length in the weeks leading up to the game.
The veteran coach made a trip to the landscaping aisle at Lowe’s to purchase an extra wide leaf rank and mounted it to the goal to force his players to alter their shots.
Kentucky opened the game sluggish, falling behind by as many as eight points in the first half, before taking its first lead at 22-19 on a 3-pointer by Green. UK outscored SIU 6-2 in the final 1:31 of the first half to lead 31-28.
Richards had 12 rebounds at halftime as UK won the board battle 25-8 in the first half.
Johnson and Quickley each had seven points to lead UK. Cook had seven for SIU.
Kentucky remains at home on Wednesday to face North Dakota.
—Field Level Media