No. 12 Kentucky stunned by North Carolina-Wilmington

Points, which had come easy for Kentucky this season, were at a premium Saturday against UNC Wilmington.

And the Wildcats, rarely careless with the ball, struggled with decision-making versus the spunky Seahawks of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Both those factors doomed Kentucky Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena.

After trailing 41-33 at halftime, Kentucky couldn’t muster a comeback in the final 20 minutes, falling at home for the first time this season in stunning fashion, 80-73.

The No. 12 Wildcats’ (6-2) mistakes were simply too much to overcome. Especially when the Seahawks (6-2) kept knocking down shots from the perimeter. UNC Wilmington sank 11 3-pointers, more than double Kentucky’s five.

But it wasn’t just 3-point shooting that killed the Cats in the seven-point loss.

Kentucky forward Tre Mitchell (4) passes the ball during the first half against UNC Wilmington.
Kentucky forward Tre Mitchell (4) passes the ball during the first half against UNC Wilmington.

Saturday was an uncharacteristically sloppy outing when juxtaposed against Kentucky’s sky-high standard this season.

The Wildcats entered Saturday committing just 8.1 turnovers per game, which ranked third in the country; they had nine by the 6:37 mark of the first half. Kentucky finished with 14 turnovers in the win.

Not only had Kentucky avoided giving the ball away through the first seven games, but it also exhibited crisp ball movement, averaging an SEC-best 20.9 assists a contest that was the sixth-highest in Division I. But the Wildcats dished out just 14 assists against the Seahawks.

Saturday marked the first time this season Kentucky failed to score at least 81 points. Reaching that figure in each of their first seven outings was the Wildcats’ longest streak to start a season since the 1970-71 team.

Kentucky, which made 40.7% (24 for 59) of its shots from the field Saturday, had four double-digit scorers, led by freshman guard Reed Sheppard’s 25 points. It marked the second consecutive game Sheppard topped the scoring chart for the Wildcats. He also pulled down a career- and team-high nine rebounds. Senior guard Antonio Reeves had 14 points Saturday before fouling out with 2:56 remaining. Senior forward Tre Mitchell and freshman wing Justin Edwards chipped in 11 points apiece.

Freshman forward Aaron Bradshaw, who made his college debut Saturday after being sidelined since earlier this year with a foot injury, had three points, two rebounds and a block in 13 minutes off the bench. Freshman guard D.J. Wagner, Bradshaw’s teammate at Camden High in New Jersey, sat out Saturday after injuring his ankle in Tuesday’s win over No. 8 Miami.

Trazarien White’s game-high 27 points paced the Seahawks. Next in line for the visitors were Donovan Newby with 15 points, followed by Shykeim Phillips (13) and Ky Jenkins (11). Kentucky won’t play again for another seven days, heading to Philadelphia to face Penn next Saturday. The contest will tip off at noon and air nationally on ESPN2. It will be held at the Wells Fargo Center, the home of the Flyers and 76ers.

Reach Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black at rblack@gannett.com and follow him on X at @RyanABlack.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky stunned by UNC Wilmington after sloppy outing