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Freshman Bam Adebayo leads No. 11 Kentucky over Missouri

By Darrell Bird, The Sports Xchange
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Freshman Bam Adebayo leads No. 11 Kentucky over Missouri
Missouri Tigers K.J. Walton (L) and Kentucky Wildcats Malik Monk battle for control in the first half at the Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri on February 21, 2017. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- No. 11 Kentucky got a double-double of 22 points and a career-best 15 rebounds from freshman Bam Adebayo in its 72-62 victory over Missouri on Tuesday night.

Saturday's showdown for first place in the Southeastern Conference is now set at Rupp Arena between Kentucky (23-5, 13-2) and No. 13 Florida (23-5, 13-2), which defeated South Carolina 81-66 earlier Tuesday.

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Adebayo scored 10 of Kentucky's first 14 points in the second half to help the Wildcats expand upon their 31-30 halftime lead.

"We lose if Bam doesn't play the way he did tonight," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "It's on me to make sure we're throwing him the ball."

Earlier this week, Adebayo fell out of the first round on some NBA mock draft lists.

"If someone passes on him in the draft this year, they should be fired," Calipari said. "He guards all five positions. I couldn't be more proud of him."

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Freshman guard De'Aaron Fox added 13 points and freshman guard Malik Monk scored 11, keeping his streak alive of scoring in double figures in every game this season.

Despite the victory, Kentucky's fifth in a row, Calipari still is not pleased with his team with only three regular season games remaining.

"We had guys playing scared," Calipari said. "If you're afraid of Missouri, how are you going to play in that (NCAA) tournament? Guys not playing consistent. Defensively, having some breakdowns. But we won, we move on. But we've got work to do with this team."

Missouri (7-20, 2-13) was led by sophomore guard Terrence Phillips, who finished with a career-best 22 points. Junior forward Jordan Barnett added 13.

Kentucky shot 46.2 percent from the field and Missouri 36.7. The Wildcats outrebounded the Tigers 44-31, including 26-12 in the second half, but committed 17 turnovers.

The loss was the 20th for Missouri, its third straight year with 20 or more losses for embattled coach Kim Anderson.

"For a team to be struggling win-loss wise, I just watched them fight like crazy," Calipari said of Missouri. "I'm going to say it again: That is coaching. They haven't let go of the rope here. I loved it when the students cheered Kim when he walked in. That means something to me. They had a chance to beat us. They could easily beat us."

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Anderson appreciated the support.

"There's nobody in America who's more supportive than coaches than John Calipari," Anderson said.

With 7:45 remaining and the score tied 52-52, Kentucky ripped off an 8-0 run to lead 60-52. Adebayo scored the first five points and Wenyen Gabriel had the last three.

Kentucky stretched the run to 16-6 to build its first double-digit lead of 68-58 with 1:43 to play.

The first half looked like anything like a game between one team with two SEC losses and another with only two conference wins.

Missouri used a 7-0 run to grab a 28-24 lead with 4:20 left. Phillips had a 3-pointer and Reed Nikko and Barnett each scored two points.

Kentucky had gone more than five minutes with just one basket during that stretch and had eight turnovers for the half.

The Wildcats bounced back to claim a 31-30 at halftime despite missing seven of its last eight shots from the floor before intermission.

Isaiah Briscoe and Monk topped Kentucky with seven points each in the first half. Fox added six and Adebayo had five.

The Wildcats shot 44 percent from the floor but had nine turnovers and four assists.

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Missouri got nine points from Barnett and Phillips in the opening half. The Tigers shot 41.9 percent from the field but had six turnovers and two assists.

NOTES:

-- Missouri's roster ranks No. 331 of 351 NCAA Division I teams in terms of experience. The entire roster consists of first- or second-year players.

-- Since Missouri coach Kim Anderson won his 300th career game on Feb. 11, he has lost three in a row.

-- Kentucky scores every 14.7 seconds, eighth fastest in the nation.

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