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No. 6 Kentucky hopes to keep soaring vs. reeling Missouri

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No. 6 Kentucky has climbed up the rankings thanks to a stretch in which it has won nine of its past 10 games.

The Wildcats will try to continue their recent success when they play host to Missouri on Tuesday in Lexington, Ken.

Kentucky coach John Calipari credits his team’s newfound depth for its strong start. The Wildcats sport a balanced offensive attack, featuring five players with scoring averages in double figures: Antonio Reaves (19.0 points per game), Rob Dillingham (13.7), Tre Mitchell (12.7), Reed Sheppard (12.6) and D.J. Wagner (12.1).

The Wildcats (11-2, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) have three other players averaging at least 7.6 points per game.

“When you’re playing bad, the past couple years, if a guy played bad, he was just bad the whole game,” Calipari said. “(That’s) just how it was. He would go 1-for-15. This team, the good news is if you’re not playing great I can sub you (and) it doesn’t hurt us that much.

“You don’t have to be great every moment you’re playing. We have enough guys now. We’ll just sub and be ready for the next sub or the next game.”

As with his earlier Kentucky teams, Calipari is getting plenty of production from his excellent freshman class that includes Wagner, Sheppard, Aaron Bradshaw and Dillingham.

“I don’t care that they’re young. They’re dogs,” Calipari said. “They have a will to win. They were playing to win the game (against Florida on Saturday) and that’s why I wanted Robert (Dillingham) in at the end, offensively, because I knew he would play to win the game because that’s his mentality.”

The Wildcats pulled out an 87-85 victory against the Gators behind Bradshaw’s pivotal 3-pointer and Sheppard’s six late free throws.

“This is where you find out where you are right now,” Calipari said. “Pleased for our guys but then this thing flips around and we play again on Tuesday? You kidding me? We have two (games) a week now.”

Missouri (8-6, 0-1) opened SEC play by losing 75-68 to Georgia at home on Saturday for its fourth loss in the past five games.

The Tigers were doomed by two lengthy scoreless spells — one that lasted more than seven minutes in the first half, when the Tigers fell behind by 17 points, and one that lasted nearly four minutes late in the game.

“I didn’t really see anything during the scoring droughts because obviously, we’re trying our hardest to get buckets,” Tigers forward Noah Carter said. “But specifically, down the stretch, what got us in trouble is just not getting rebounds.

“The scoring droughts come, they go. This team is very skilled offensively so I’m not really worried about that.”

One positive for Missouri against Georgia was the play of forward Aidan Shaw, who scored a career-high 14 points. Tigers coach Dennis Gates has been trying to get Shaw to become more assertive offensively.

“It was a good game for me because I was going off the game plan, really just doing what I do most and what I’m good at,” Shaw said. “I was cutting 45 (degrees) in from the corner and watching my point guards go baseline.”

The Tigers are paced by guard Sean East II, who averages 17.1 points and 3.9 assists per game. Carter is averaging 11.5 points and 6.3 rebounds.

–Field Level Media

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