Kentucky still hasn’t lost back-to-back non-conference games at home since 1989.
But Utah Valley came close to making it happen.
The Wolverines were within one point, 68-67, with 3:26 to play in Lexington on Monday and the home fans at Rupp Arena were getting nervous. But UVU went more than two minutes without scoring and No. 9 Kentucky pulled away for an 82-74 victory.
Last week, the Wildcats (2-1) were ranked No. 1 but lost to Evansville at Rupp Arena.
“We knew that coming in here Kentucky was going to be amped up and they were,” Utah Valley coach Mark Madsen said. “Kentucky did a fantastic job of executing their game plan and really making big plays down the stretch.”
T.J. Washington scored 22 points for Utah Valley, including five 3-point baskets, and added five assists and five rebounds. Travis Woodbury added 17 points.
Ashton Hagens paced Kentucky with 26 points, including a perfect 12 of 12 from the foul line. Nick Richards added 21 and Tyrese Maxey 21.
Utah Valley finished 11 of 31 from the 3-point line while Kentucky was just 1 for 12. But the Wildcats outscored the Wolverines by 20 points at the free throw line.
Utah Valley hung around in the first half and trailed by eight, 35-27, at the break. The Kentucky lead reached 16, 44-28, with 17 minutes remaining but the Wolverines mounted a charge behind Washington. The senior guard made three straight 3-pointers to cut the Wildcats lead to seven, 54-47, with 11:13 to play. J.J. Overton scored inside to trim the deficit to two, 60-58 with 6:45 to play and Washington’s fourth 3-pointer made the score 68-67. But Kentucky got a key tip-in from Richards and made enough free throws at the end to secure the victory.
Utah Valley (3-2) hosts Lamar at the UCCU Center on Thursday.