LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kyle Wiltjer scored a personal-best 24 points and a trio of freshmen sparked No. 3 Kentucky’s 17-2 second-half run to beat Loyola (Md.) 87-63 on Thursday for the Wildcats’ 42nd consecutive victory at home.
Wiltjer, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all had afternoons to remember as Kentucky (11-1) heads into a five-day break before the schedule begins to ramp up.
Baltimore-based Loyola (8-3) stayed close throughout the first half and pestered Kentucky, which was missing preseason All-America Terrence Jones for the second consecutive game after he dislocated the pinky finger on his left, shooting hand on Saturday.
Erik Etherly scored 14 points, Dylon Cormier 13 and Justin Drummond 10 for the Greyhounds.
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 1 Syracuse 80, Tulane 61|
|No. 2 Ohio State 69, Miami (Ohio) 40|
|No. 3 Kentucky 87, Loyola (Md.) 63|
|No. 6 Baylor 72, St. Mary’s (Calif.) 59|
|No. 8 Connecticut 79, Fairfield 71|
|No. 9 Missouri 78, No. 25 Illinois 74|
|No. 10 Marquette 64, Milwaukee 50|
|No. 11 Florida 82, Florida State 64|
|No. 12 Kansas 63, Southern Cal 47|
|Long Beach State 68, No. 14 Xavier 58|
|No. 16 Georgetown 70, Memphis 59|
|No. 17 Indiana 89, UMBC 47|
|No. 18 Miss. St. 82, Northwestern St. 67|
|No. 19 Michigan State 90, Lehigh 81|
|No. 20 Michigan 77, Bradley 66|
|No. 23 Creighton 87, Northwestern 79|
Davis contributed 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, Kidd-Gilchrist added 15 points and seven rebounds and Darius Miller had 13 points. Kentucky hosts Lamar on Wednesday night before renewing its in-state rivalry with No. 4 Louisville on Dec. 31.
With the Christmas break at hand, Kentucky needed to work a little harder than expected after Etherly cut the lead to 45-41 with the first basket of the second half before Kentucky began pulling away.
Wiltjer went 7-for-11 from the field after shooting 33 percent over his previous eight games. His three-pointer early in the second half extended Kentucky’s streak to 799 consecutive games with at least one make from beyond the arc and Kidd-Gilchrist finished a dunk to give Kentucky a 56-46 lead with 16:41 to play.
After a timeout, Etherly scored to cut it to eight, but Kidd-Gilchrist and Wiltjer sparked the 17-2 run. A basket by Wiltjer and a dunk by Eloy Vargas made it 73-50 as Loyola went 5:17 without a point because of Kentucky’s throttling defense.
On one play, Davis crossed the lane and swatted J’hared Hall’s layup attempt for his third block of the game. Davis, who has 52 blocks, is easily on pace to break the school’s season-single record of 83.
Jones again was not in uniform after his finger bent awkwardly early in Saturday’s win against Chattanooga. The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward spent another game sitting beside Ryan Harrow and the rest of the injured Wildcats after appearing in the first 48 games of his collegiate career.
Loyola’s longest winning streak since joining Division I in 1981-82 ended at eight at St. Bonaventure on Sunday, and while the Greyhounds hadn’t played an SEC opponent in 28 years, they weren’t intimidated by the Rupp Arena crowd.
The Greyhounds only led once at 2-0, but stayed close and even showed some swagger of their own, with Cormier doing his own salute after hitting a long-range shot midway through the first half.
After a 6-0 run gave Kentucky its first double-digit lead at 33-23, Loyola answered with an 8-0 run that was capped when the Greyhounds stripped Marquis Teague in a halfcourt trap and Etherly finished an alley-oop pass from Robert Olson on the break.
Etherly went right at Davis, one of the top college prospects in the country, when he beat Wiltjer on the dribble and Davis couldn’t rotate over to block Etherly’s emphatic dunk in time as the Greyhounds trailed 45-39 at halftime.
The good feelings wouldn’t carry over. After Loyola scored the first basket of the second half, Kentucky tightened up its pressure to pull away.