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Kentucky 86, Missouri 37

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — No. 1-ranked and undefeated Kentucky made sure the third time was not the charm for Southeastern Conference teams as the Wildcats dismantled Missouri 86-37 Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.

After having been pushed to overtime by Ole Miss and to double overtime at Texas A&M, winning by three and six points, respectively, Kentucky (16-0, 3-0 SEC) rolled up a double-digit lead halfway through the first half and never looked back, building a 40-point lead at 71-31 with 7:30 left to play before winning by 49.

Sophomore guard Aaron Harrison led a balanced attack with 16 points. Junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein added 13 points and freshman center Karl-Anthony Towns had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Guard Wes Clark and forward Keanau Post topped Missouri (7-9, 1-2 SEC) with 10 points each. It was the Tigers’ second straight conference loss after opening the conference season with an upset win over Louisiana State.

Kentucky continued its impressive defense, entering the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage defense (31.3 percent) and No. 2 in scoring defense (51.5 points per game). Kentucky limited Missouri to 27 percent field goal shooting, 16-of-59.

For its part, Kentucky hit 48 percent of its shots from the field, including 44 percent from three-point range. The Wildcats also won the rebound battle, 46-27.

The game opened with one big surprise as Kentucky coach John Calipari returned to his true platoon system by moving sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins into the starting lineup and bumping freshman forward Trey Lyles back to the second group.

Calipari previously made five-for-five swaps at each media timeout, but he abandoned the plan when junior forward Alex Poythress tore an anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 11. Hawkins had not even played in Kentucky’s past three games.

Whether the platoons had an impact is up for debate, but Kentucky did fire out of the gate Tuesday after getting pushed to overtime in its first two Southeastern Conference victories. The Wildcats jumped on top of Missouri 32-12 thanks to a 20-2 run midway through the first half. Guard Devin Booker led the way with five points.

Paced by Towns’ 10 points, Kentucky held a 42-18 halftime advantage. Aaron Harrison and Booker added seven first-half points apiece.

Missouri shot 31 percent (9-for-31) in the first 20 minutes. Post led the Tigers with eight first-half points.

NOTES: Tigers F Johnathan Williams shot 0-for-10 in the first half. … During the opening half, Kentucky overtook Nevada-Las Vegas as the school with the longest streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer. G Tyler Ulis’ trey at 13:01 pushed the Wildcats’ run to 916 games … With 16 consecutive victories to begin the season, Kentucky is off to the fourth-best start in program history, having just passed the 1969-70 Dan Issel-led team for that honor.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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