No. 7 Kentucky 80, No. 13 West Virginia 66

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Kentucky’s 20-0 run was too much for West Virginia to overcome.

The No. 13 Mountaineers seized a 9-2 lead over No. 7 Kentucky at the outset, then lost their cool and missed 13 straight shots while the Wildcats scored 20 straight points, then held on for an 80-66 victory Tuesday night in the consolation game of the Guardians Classic.

Patrick Sparks had 25 points for Kentucky (3-1), including three 3-pointers in the first-half run that proved decisive. West Virginia (2-2) spent the rest of the game trying to catch up.

“We did not allow them to get a rhythm early on,” said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith. “We extended our defense. I thought our guys did a good job of getting out on them and contesting their shots.”

Twice the Mountaineers cut the lead to three, the last time with 8:23 left when Patrick Beilein and Kevin Pittsnogle hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 56-53.

But Ravi Moss answered with a 3 for the Wildcats and a few minutes later Sparks hit his seventh 3-pointer and Rajon Rondo scored for a 68-58 advantage.

“They’re just a great team,” said Mike Gansey, who had 12 points for West Virginia. “Rondo kept making plays for them.”

Kentucky also crossed up the Mountaineers by going to a zone defense.

“Maybe because we played yesterday we were tired,” said Gansey. “Teams like that you don’t see very often will sometimes try different things. I think that’s what they wanted to do.”

Said West Virginia coach John Beilein, “We may have panicked just a little.”

Rondo had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Sparks was 7-for-11 from behind the arc, matching his career-high. He also had six assists.

Kentucky was 2-for-8 from the foul line before making its last six free throws in the final 70 seconds to seal the victory.

“We decided to put the ball in Patrick’s hands a little more,” Smith said. “He’s more experienced. He’s a veteran player. He’ll beat you with his savvy and deception with his ball handling.”

Pittsnogle tied his career-high with 27 points and also had 10 rebounds. The only other Mountaineer in double figures was Gansey.

“Once we were down we thought we could get back into it by making shots and making good plays,” said Pittsnogle. “You get down by three or four, it’s all right. But if you’re down 10 or 12 it’s really hard, no matter how good your shooters are, to get back into it.”

Pittsnogle, a 6-11 center, made shots both inside and outside.

“Pittsnogle got hot and made some jumpers,” said Smith. “He was very impressive. When you have shooters like that, you’ve got to be careful playing a zone.”

The Mountaineers, who earned a preseason ranking for the first time in 43 years, went scoreless for 9:52 during Kentucky’s 20-0 run until Pittsnogle made a short jumper in the lane.

The Wildcats, the preseason choice in the Southeastern Conference, shot 55 percent after hitting only 33 percent in a 67-63 loss on Monday night to No. 18 Iowa, which met No. 2 Texas in the title game.

“We passed the ball better than last night,” Smith said. “And we took better shots. Last night we dribbled too much and did a lot of crazy things.”

West Virginia cut the lead to 28-23 on Pittsnogle’s 3-pointer with 3:23 left in the first half before Kentucky scored the next five points on Jared Carter’s tip-in and three-point play. Frank Young’s 3-pointer at the buzzer left the Wildcats with a 33-26 halftime lead.

The Mountaineers, who had a school-record 319 3-pointers last season, missed 10 of their first 11 and finished 10-for-37 from behind the arc.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
R. Rondo R. Rondo
5-9,  15 Pts
10 Rebs, 4 Assists
 West Virginia
K. Pittsnogle K. Pittsnogle
10-16,  27 Pts
10 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders