KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kentucky Wildcats rebounded nicely from its setback to Iowa by beating the 13th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers handily. Senior Patrick Sparks led the Cats with 25 points. UK used an early 20-0 run to bury West Virginia, who would play catchup all night long, falling short 80-66 in the consolation game of the Guardians Classic. Kentucky (3-1) turned an early 9-2 deficit into a 22-9 lead in the first half with Sparks hitting three 3-pointers (he had seven of them for the night).
The Mountaineers cut the lead to three on two occasions, once at the 8:23 mark when Patrick Beilein and Kevin Pittsnogle hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 56-53. But Ravi Moss answered with a 3 for the Wildcats and a few minutes later Sparks hit his seventh 3-pointer and Rajon Rondo scored for a 68-58 advantage.
Rondo had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Sparks was 7-for-11 from behind the arc, matching his career-high. He also had six assists.
Kentucky made its last six free throws in the final minute to keep WV from cutting into the lead. Rajon Rondo added 15 for Kentucky and Ravi Moss, in a surprise starting role, added 11 points, including two key three point shots. The Wildcats shot abysmally last night in the loss to Iowa but rebounded nicely, shooting 54% from the field and an outstanding 46% (12-26) from three point range.
The Mountaineers, who earned a preseason ranking for the first time in 43 years, went scoreless for 9:52 during Kentucky's 20-0 run until Pittsnogle made a short jumper in the lane.
The Mountaineers, who had a school-record 319 3-pointers last season, missed 10 of their first 11 and finished 10-for-37 from behind the arc.
The Wildcats return to Lexington to face Liberty on Friday night.
Team records and series notes
· Kentucky is now 3-1 overall, while West Virginia moves to 2-2 on the season. With the win, Kentucky takes third place overall in the 2005 Guardian's Classic.
· The Wildcats are 12-4 all-time against West Virginia. UK has won the last six series meetings.
· Tubby Smith is 1-0 all-time against the Mountaineers.
Team game notes
· Kentucky outrebounded WVU, 34-32. The Cats have outrebounded three of their four opponents this year and are 2-1 when winning the battle of the boards.
· Kentucky shot 54.5 (30-of-55) percent from the floor, its second time topping 50 percent shooting this year. In Tubby Smith's nine years, UK is 96-1 (.990) when shooting 50 percent or better.
· Kentucky hit 12-of-26 three-point field goals for a .462 effort.
· West Virginia was held to .jkj shooting. UK has held 69 of its last 70 opponents under 50 percent shooting, including 27 straight.
· WVU's Kevin Pittsnogle had 27 points in the game, the most by a UK opponent since Bracey Wright went for 31 points in Indiana's loss to Kentucky on Dec. 11, 2004.
· UK led 33-26 at halftime. Patrick Sparks had 14 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting in the first half.
· The Wildcats return home Friday, November 25 to face Liberty at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena.
UK individual game notes
· Patrick Sparks led Kentucky with a season-high 25 points, one shy of his career high. He tied his career high for three-pointers made with 7-of-11 shooting. Sparks had seven three-pointers and a then-UK best 26 points at Alabama on Feb. 26, 2005 to help UK secure its 43rd SEC Championship. Sparks nailed seven threes twice in his two years at Western Kentucky. He was 8-of-13 overall and added six assists, two steals and two rebounds.
· Rajon Rondo put together his second career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He's scored in double figures three times this year and tallied double-figure rebounds on three occasions.
· Senior Ravi Moss and junior Bobby Perry each earned their first career start against the Mountaineers. Moss finished the game with 11 points. It was his second double-figure scoring effort of the year and fifth of his career.
· Freshman Jared Carter scored his first points as a Wildcat in his third career game. He finished with five points in the win.