For Raven Lee and Karrington Ward, the environment of being at Rupp Arena appeared to affect their production as they combined for seven points in Eastern Michigan University’s 81-63 loss to the No. 3-ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats.
Lee could not find the touch as he shot 1-for-9 and went 0-for-4 from three-point range finishing with a season-low two points.
Ward appeared to be rattled as most of the shots from mid-range and three-point distance were unable to fall as he went 2-for-9 shooting, 0-for-2 three-point range and 1-for-2 from the foul line.
“Anytime you don’t get production from your top two scorers, you are going to struggle,” EMU coach Rob Murphy said.
EMU falls to 5-1 while Kentucky moves to 6-1 on the season.
Rebounding continued to plague the Eagles as they allowed 52 rebounds compared to the Wildcats’ 33.
“Anytime you’re playing against a team like that, you have to find a way to keep them off the glass,” Murphy said. “When (Kentucky) missed shots, they were able to (get) rebounds.”
Foul trouble plagued centers Da’Shonte Riley and Lekan Ajayi as they both fouled out within a one-minute stretch in the second half.
“Foul trouble caught up with us, and (ultimately) Kentucky made plays to win the game,” Murphy said.
Guard Darell Combs was the only Eagle who scored in the double figures with a career-high 23.
“I looked at it like it was another game,” Combs said. “They (Kentucky) put on the same clothes as we do.”
Despite being held scoreless in the first half, Kentucky’s leading scorer and rebounder Julius Randle recorded his seventh straight double-double with 14 points and 10 boards.
Guard Aaron Harrison scored a team-high 22 on 5-for-12 shooting, 9-for-11 from the foul line and 3-for-7 from three-point range.
The Eagles were off and running in the game’s first minute as Ward’s mid-range make and Lee’s lay-up gave them an early 4-0 lead in the first minute of the game, forcing Kentucky coach John Calipari to call an early timeout to settle his team down.
Coming out of the timeout, the Eagles’ length forced the Wildcats into a lot of fouls and turnovers.
Despite Riley and Ajayi being forced to sit on the bench in the latter part of the first half because of early foul trouble, EMU managed to go into halftime down 35-32.
Both teams exchanged baskets to start the second half until the Wildcats went on an 11-2 to extend its lead to 51-38 with 12:39 left in regulation.
Kentucky would continue to lead by double digits for the rest of the game and any hope for EMU to comeback went out the window when Riley and Ajayi fouled out at the 8:08 and 7:56 marks of the second half.
Bryant appeared to be in significant pain with what appeared to be an ankle injury as he was worked on by an EMU trainer in the second half.
Murphy mentioned in the press conference that he will be ready for Tuesday’s game against No. 24-ranked University of Massachusetts.
This was the third time in fourth games Riley has fouled out.
EMU’s biggest lead of the game was 4-0.
Kentucky committed a season-high 20 turnovers and Calipari showed his frustrations despite coming away the win.
“Again, too many turnovers,” Calipari said. “James and Julius had 10 turnovers between them. C’mon, you’re too good of basketball players.”
On Dec. 3, the Eagles return to the Convocation Center to take on UMass.
UMass is 6-0 on the season and is fresh off of defeating Clemson University in the finals of the Charleston Classic 62-56.
Center Cady Lalanne recorded a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Minutemen.
Lalanne leads the team in scoring and rebounding with an average of 17.2 and 11.3, respectively.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be heard on WEMU 89.1 FM with Chad Bush and Sean Hostetter on the call.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.