Big second half lifts No. 5 Kentucky past Utah Valley 73-63

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Hamidou Diallo scored 15 second-half points, most of them during an 18-0 run, and No. 5 Kentucky shot 59 percent after halftime to rally past Utah Valley 73-63 on Friday night in the opener for both schools.

One of Kentucky coach John Calipari’s youngest rosters since arriving in Lexington showed its inexperience by struggling on both ends and trailing 34-25 at halftime. The Wildcats emerged from the break more energetic to make the pivotal run over 3:22 with eight consecutive baskets, including back-to-back transition dunks by Diallo.

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The redshirt freshman guard, one of eight Kentucky newcomers, finished with 18 points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 13 points, Kevin Knox 12 and Nick Richards 10.

Kentucky still had to work to put away the veteran Wolverines. But it eventually built a 57-47 lead with 7:32 remaining and held off Utah Valley in the inaugural meeting between the schools.

Kenneth Ogbe had 12 points and Jake Toolson added 11 for the Wolverines.

The Wolverines’ advantage in experience showed throughout a first half in which they held Kentucky to 22 percent shooting and outrebounded the Wildcats 25-16. Just as quickly, they couldn’t keep up with their younger counterparts after the break and shot just 41 percent overall. The outcome spoiled the homecoming for Wolverines coach and Kentucky alumnus Mark Pope, a member of the Wildcats’ 1996 NCAA championship team under Rick Pitino.

Freshman nerves showed as the Wildcats struggled shooting the ball and were frequently outhustled inside. Turning up the tempo quickly shifted momentum and their statistics, as they finished 41 percent from the field and nearly even on the boards (38-37). Sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel had seven points and 13 rebounds.

Utah Valley’s season-opening journey gets even tougher as it visits Tobacco Road on Saturday night to meet top-ranked Duke.

Kentucky hosts Vermont on Sunday, playing an NCAA Tournament participant as a final tuneup before facing No. 4 Kansas in Chicago on Tuesday.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.