LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Keion Brooks Jr. scored 17 points, TyTy Washington Jr. added 14 and No. 18 Kentucky overcame an uneven second half to roll past Missouri 83-56 on Wednesday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools.
The Wildcats (10-2, 1-0) trailed just once early on against a Tigers squad playing without head coach Cuonzo Martin, who missed the contest with COVID. But Kentucky had to offset 38% percent shooting in the second half and some ragged stretches to pull away from Missouri (6-7, 0-1) after consecutive blowouts over North Carolina and Western Kentucky.
Brooks provided the needed cushion with several key baskets after the break, including a couple of dunks during the Wildcats’ 7-2 spurt for a 59-45 lead with 9:23 remaining. Kentucky soon followed with 10 answered points to make it 73-52 and eventually improve to 13-3 against Mizzou.
Amari Davis and Dajuan Gordon had 10 points each for Missouri, which dropped its fourth in six games.
Kentucky shot just 38% after halftime and 43% overall, but Brooks’ 7-of-11 shooting was the bright spot. The junior forward also had nine rebounds. Washington was 6 of 13, while Oscar Tshiebwe made 9 of 10 free throws for 13 points while grabbing 20 boards.
Missouri appeared on the verge of being run out of Rupp Arena several times before warming up offensively with several small runs to get within single digits in the second half. The Tigers then went cold, missing 13 of their final 17 attempts.
Kentucky started fast before cooling off in the second half, making just 27% during one stretch. The Wildcats offset that with solid defense that forced 14 turnovers leading to 21 points.
Missouri hosts Mississippi State on Wednesday.
Kentucky hosts Tubby Smith-led High Point on Friday in a non-conference game where the former Wildcats coach will have his name placed among the Rupp Arena rafters. Smith led Kentucky to the 1998 NCAA championship.