LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 22, 2019) - Mount St. Mary's men's basketball played a strong 20 minutes against the No. 9 team in the nation. But the 20,351 nervous stomachs at Rupp Arena quickly turned jubilant as the Kentucky Wildcats came firing on all cylinders in the second half, defeating the Mountaineers 82-62 Friday.
"I'm really proud of our fight and resilience." Head Coach Dan Engelstad said. "For a good period there, we were with them toe-to-toe. There's some things we needed to clean up, and we got hurt inside. But we're proud of our group."
Damian Chong Qui led the Mountaineers (1-5) with 11 points, with three more players in double figures. Omar Habwe added 10 points with a team high seven rebounds, and Malik Jefferson and Brandon Leftwich also registered 10 points each.
Kentucky (4-1) was led by Nick Richards with 19 and seven rebounds from Ashton Higgins.
The Mount hung around in the first half, matching the Wildcats on the scoreboard despite shooting 17 percent worse than their counerparts. Chidozie Collin Nnamene buried a trey with 10:13 in the first half for a 18-17 lead and Leftwich followed that with a jumper to make it 20-19 with 7:35 remaining. A pair of free throws extended the lead to three - Mount's largest of the night. However, a 6-0 Kentucky run late in the half gave the Wildcats a 39-34 edge at the break.
The Wildcats roared out of the game in the second half, shooting 12-of-13 to open the frame. That outburst of scoring sealed the victory, but Mount managed to play level the rest of the way, including a late basket from Ayan Teel. The highlight of the night did come in the second half - a Leftwich fast break dunk under nine minutes.
"Coach [Matt Miller] and the staff said I would play in spurts." Leftwich said. "So I gave it my all and went as fast as I can. On the dunk, I saw it was me and Tyrese [Maxey], and I tried to get to the rim before he could. Once I had the lane, I went up strong and threw it down. Being in Rupp, it was a great experience."
Mount St. Mary's returns home to face Utah Valley Tuesday (Nov. 26). First tip is at 7 p.m. in Emmitsburg.