Bradshaw’s breakout leads Cats past Penn

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, December 12, 2023

By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

Aaron Bradshaw had a coming out party Saturday in Philadelphia.

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In his second collegiate game since returning from a foot injury, Bradshaw scored 17 points and completed a double-double with 11 rebounds to help lead No. 16 Kentucky to an 81-66 win over Penn at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

“Somebody told me to sub him,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I’m like, are you out of your mind? Are you watching this?”

The Wildcats (7-2) bounced back from last Saturday’s disappointing 80-73 loss to UNC-Wilmington and received a dose of momentum going into Saturday’s showdown against No. 9 North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic in Atlanta.

Bradshaw gave the Wildcats a much-needed presence in the post and made seven field goals on 12 attempts. He played 29 minutes and also added three blocked shots and one steal. One of his made field goal attempts was a 3–pointer in the second half.

Behind Bradshaw, Kentucky got most of its scoring from it reserves with 40 points off the bench. Rob Dillingham also scored 17 points off the bench, while Reed Sheppard added six points. Dillingham made three shots from long range, with two of those coming in the opening half.

Antonio Reeves was the only starter in double figures with 16 points. Reeves knocked down a pair of 3-pointers.

D.J. Wagner returned to the staring lineup after missing the previous contest because of an ankle injury. He finished with nine points and handed out a team-high seven assists.

Kentucky led by 16 points late in the first half before Penn rallied with the last eight of the half.

It was a homecoming game for several players. Justin Edwards is a Philadelphia native. Bradshaw, DJ Wagner and Kareem Watkins are all from across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey.

“It was a surreal feeling,” of playing near home, Bradshaw said. “I was just having fun out there.”

Penn coach Steve Donahue said he wanted Penn to keep playing games against marquee teams at the Wells Fargo Center and pitched the idea of playing Duke, North Carolina or Kentucky. Kentucky said yes.

“I think John Calipari gets a bad rap about what he’s about,” Donahue said. “I think he’s a really good ambassador of our game. He was excited and thought, let’s bring these local guys back and maybe it’s a win-win for both of us. I didn’t think it would happen, honestly.”

Kentucky was the home team on the scoreboard and even had advertisements from Lexington in the arena. The Wildcats are off until Saturday when they take on North Carolina in Atlanta.