EditorsNote: Deletes unnecessary “their” in graf 2; reworks graf 5 re. 3-point shooting; other minor edits
Kentucky, which plummeted from No. 1 to No. 9 in the AP Top 25 following a stunning home loss to Evansville, got back on the winning track Monday night with an 82-74 win over Utah Valley on Lexington, Ky. — but it wasn’t easy.
After Kentucky held merely a 68-67 lead with 2 1/2 minutes to play, sophomore guard Ashton Hagans scored six of his game-high 26 points down the stretch to seal the victory. All six were on free throws, and the Wildcats made 10 of 11 foul shots in the final two-plus minutes and finished 31 of 34 at the line. Hagans was 12-for-12.
Kentucky (3-1) outscored Utah Valley 14-7 down the stretch, with 10 of the points coming from the foul line.
Wildcats junior Nick Richards recorded 21 points and 10 rebounds. He made 8 of 11 field-goal attempts and was also perfect at 5-for-5 from the foul line. Freshman Tyrese Maxey added 14 points, and grad transfer Nate Sestina had a team-best 12 rebounds.
One area of concern for Kentucky entering the game was 3-point shooting, where the Wildcats had made just 12 of their 49 attempts entering Monday, which was tied for 337th out of 350 Division I schools. On Monday, the Wildcats made only 1 of 12 tries from beyond the arc.
Kentucky was without two starters. Big man EJ Montgomery missed his third straight game with an ankle injury, and guard Immanuel Quickley sustained a chest injury during practice over the weekend.
Utah Valley (3-2) got 22 points from senior guard TJ Washington. Sophomore guard Trey Woodbury added 17 points, and junior guard Jamison Overton had 10.
The Wolverines shot 40.6 from the field and made 11 3-pointers to stay within reach, outscoring Kentucky by 30 points from beyond the arc.
Kentucky raced out to a 44-28 lead with 17 minutes remaining in the game, but Utah Valley went on a 20-10 run to cut the deficit to six points. The Wolverines never trailed by double digits again.
—Field Level Media