MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–For the third time in five games, No. 7 West Virginia had a colossal meltdown in the second half and fell 83-76 to Kentucky in front of a sold out Coliseum on Saturday night in the Big 12/ SEC Challenge.
Kevin Knox scored a season-high 34 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:10 remaining to lift the Wildcats (16-5) in an 17-point come-from-behind victory.
The 6-foot-9, 215-pound freshman scored 19 of his points in the second half.
Hamidou Diallo had 13 points for Kentucky.
Jevon Carter led the Mountaineers (16-5) with 26 points. Beetle Bolden had 17 points and Sagaba Konate added 13 points and had seven blocks.
The Wildcats had a 49-34 edge over WVU on the boards. Kentucky had 26 second chance points.
In the second half, the Wildcats outrebounded the Mountaineers 29-13.
“They manhandled our forwards,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said.
Kentucky used a 21-2 run in the second half to take a 58-56 lead, its first since early in the first half.
Bolden drained back-to-back 3s to make it a 64-61 contest with 8:24 to go. Then Daxter Miles Jr. stole the ball from Shai Gilgeous-Alexan and finished with an easy layup to extend the Mountaineers lead to four.
The two teams exchanged baskets for the next several minutes.
Knox made two free throws to put the Wildcats up 74-70 with 2:29 remaining.
Bolden tied the game with a huge 3 but Knox gave Kentucky the lead right back with a 3 at the other end. The Wildcats made several free throws in the closing minute to seal the win.
“We did a pretty good job of running the offense but then we didn’t run the offense in the second half,” Huggins said. “They took us out of some things and we had some guys going to be heroes rather than team players. And the truth of the matter is, they are just better than we are. They are more talented. We outrebounded them by one in the first half and get outrebounded by 16 in the second half. We couldn’t keep them off the glass.”
With 21 seconds left in the first half Bolden drained a 3-pointer to put WVU up 48-33.
The Mountaineers shot 40 percent from the floor, 42 percent from beyond the arc and made 12-of-18 from the charity stripe.
Kentucky shot 45 percent from the field, 44 percent from long range and 79 percent from the line.
WVU travels to Ames on Wednesday to square off against Iowa State.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS