Kentucky basketball: Another blood pressure, heart attack grinder of a win

Kentucky Wildcats forward Jacob Toppin hugs forward Bryce Hopkins (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats forward Jacob Toppin hugs forward Bryce Hopkins (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Kentucky basketball
Kentucky forward Bryce Hopkins ( Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports) /

Bryce Hopkins seizes his opportunity to rally Kentucky back to life

This Wildcat team is loaded from top to bottom and no one knows when their name will be called on to contribute. Calipari had said before the game he would be content with playing just five guys unless someone else wanted to step up.

Bryce Hopkins was up for the challenge and when Calipari summoned him off the bench after Keion Brooks picked up his second foul the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder from Oak Park, IL in Chicago wasted little time.

LSU had built a 27-16 lead draining three-pointers, of course, they did, especially since the Tigers have the worst offense in the SEC. Another team, another player has a career night when they play Kentucky.

However, Hopkins was instrumental in rallying Big Blue ringing up 11 points during Kentucky’s 15-2 second-half surge after LSU had grown its lead back to 39-36 early in the second half.

But Hopkins delivered a three-point play that put up Kentucky ahead up 39-36 with 15:35 left and came seconds after Tshiebwe snatched Hopkins’ missed free throw and created two scoring chances that climaxed with Hopkins’ tip-in.

That drew huge hugs from teammate Jacob Toppin and big smiles from Hopkins. The relief guys on the bench celebrated as well.

He was asked afterward what got him going when he got sent into the game.

"“I think I played a good game today. I saw in the first half that we were kind of playing a little slow. So, in the second half, coach was saying that we needed a little more energy, so that’s what I tried to do when I came into the game, just tried to bring energy and contribute however I could.”"

Hopkins had scored just 8 combined points through SEC play. In fact, he had played just 6 minutes in the previous games not registering a point. It’s the most rebounds he has gotten other than against Ohio and Vanderbilt.

What a massive confidence boost for the youngster in a time when Kentucky desperately needed a spark.