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No. 9 Kentucky vies to stay hot vs. Central Michigan

Following a season-opening loss to Duke, Kentucky has been plowing through a series of unranked nonconference opponents.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats (5-1) hope that continues on Monday in a home matchup against Central Michigan in Lexington, Ky.

Kentucky has defeated Robert Morris, Mount St. Mary's, Ohio, Albany and North Florida since the 79-71 loss to the Blue Devils on Nov. 9. Kentucky's 86-52 victory over the Ospreys on Friday featured a well-balanced offensive attack.

Dontaie Allen and TyTy Washington Jr. each had 14 points and Daimion Collins, Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler each added 12. North Florida was limited to 33.3 percent shooting and committed 21 turnovers.

"We're still a work in progress but this is what I liked, we fought and we defended," Wildcats coach John Calipari said. "That's what we did. We scrambled, we played, we came up with balls and we flew."

Kentucky has four players averaging double figures in points, led by Washington at 14.8 per game.

Wheeler has been the catalyst, averaging 11.8 points and 9.2 assists.

"We're playing against ourselves," Wheeler said. "We want to get better. We want to continue to mold who we are."

In their victories, the Wildcats have limited opponents to 61 points or less. Offensively, they're averaging 83.3 points for the season.

"At some point, you're going to wear down with the amount of speed and amount of pressure we put on your defense," Wheeler said. "That's who we are. We're continually trying to get better on both ends of the floor. I think we're starting to do that."

The Chippewas (1-4) haven't played since Tuesday, when they dropped a 76-69 decision to Bellarmine in the Empire Classic tournament at Las Vegas. Harrison Henderson led Central Michigan with a season-high 21 points.

"Obviously disappointed," Chippewas associate head coach Shane Heirman said. "We're close; we're close. You can see it in moments. It's just about continuing to get incrementally better every day and then put this all together. ... Eventually it'll turn the corner for us."

The previous night, the Chippewas were overwhelmed by then-No. 1 Gonzaga, 107-54. Their lone victory was a one-point decision over Eastern Illinois on Nov. 15.

"There are good things you can see on the floor, certain things that are happening," Heirman said. "But when you're continuing to play against this level of talent and experience and programs that are well-run machines, they're going to expose some of your inexperience.

"You have to continue to get incrementally better in every aspect. There are certain pillars of our culture that we're trying to instill. It's getting better. It's going to be a process and we know that."

This is only the third time the schools have met -- Kentucky won the first two matchups, most recently in December 2008.

Following Monday's game, Kentucky gets an extended break. It won't play again until Dec. 7 when it hosts Southern. The Wildcats only have one road contest next month, when it visits Notre Dame on Dec. 11.

Central Michigan has another difficult road test on Wednesday when it visits Xavier before hosting Western Illinois on Sunday.

--Field Level Media

Updated November 29, 2021

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