Prior to nearly every regular season, the Kentucky men’s basketball team plays a Blue-White scrimmage. This game serves as a scrimmage, a warm-up of sorts, before the Wildcats take on other opponents.
On Saturday night at Appalachian Wireless Arena, the 2022-23 Cats played their Blue-White Game. And, while it served the same purpose that it usually does, it served a bigger purpose as well.
The Cats decided to move the game to Kentucky’s eastern-most county and, in the spirit of servant leadership taught by head coach John Calipari, decided that the proceeds from the game should benefit flood relief victims in Eastern Kentucky.
Mission accomplished. The Cats not only played in front of a packed arena of more than 7,000 blue-clad fans on Saturday night, they also raised an additional $162,450 for victims of this summer’s flooding. The Cats and Calipari also raised more than $2 million for Eastern Kentucky flood relief with an open practice and telethon at Rupp Arena in August.
The day was all about the Cats giving back to the people of Eastern Kentucky. The Cats began their day at Jenny Wiley State Park in Floyd County where they distributed hoodies, sweatshirts and other winter clothes to needy families in that area.
Senior Antonio Reeves talked about the purpose of the Floyd County event.
“We tried to keep them out there staying warm,” Reeves said. “We gave them jackets, sweaters, coats, and things like that to make sure they stay warm form the winter. You know, it has been a good thing for the community and good for the team as well.”
Then, it was on to Pikeville where the Cats would add to their fundraising for the region with the Blue-White game.
Calipari addressed the crowd prior to the game, letting them know that the Cats would continue to support their needs.
“We will never forget about you,” Calipari said. “This program will always be here to lift the Commonwealth. This is your program.”
Kentucky governor Andy Beshear was in attendance, and he let the fans in attendance know how much these Cats care about the citizens of the Commonwealth.
“We are here tonight to make sure you know that you are not alone,” Beshear said. “In Kentucky, we love our Wildcats. And tonight, these Cats showed that they love you, too.”
There was a basketball game on this night, although the Cats were a bit shorthanded. UK was without defending National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe, who is still nursing a knee injury. The Cats were also without starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler and big man Lance Ware, who are also injured.
The remaining Cats came onto the floor in warm-up shirts that said “Appalachia” Men’s Basketball on the front and 606 on the back, in honor of the region they were there to support.
The scrimmage itself turned out to be very competitive. The White team, which appeared to have most of the starting five, led by double digits early, but saw the Blue team rally to lead by four, 67-63, with 1:58 left in the game. However, the White team would get a layup from Chris Livingston with 1:10 to go to cut the lead in half.
Then, with just 33 seconds to go, Jacob Toppin drained a three from the top of the key to give the White team a 68-67 lead. Livingston would finish off the game with a dunk to give the White team a three-point win.
Reeves, the Illinois State transfer who was playing for the Blue team, led all scorers with 27 points, including five made three-point baskets. Adou Thiero added 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Ugonna Onyenso had 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks for the Blue team.
The White team played just five players, and all five scored in double figures. CJ Fredrick led the White with 18 points, while Cason Wallace and Livingston each had 15. Toppin had 12 and Daimion Collins added 10.
Kentucky returns to action next Sunday, Oct. 30, against Missouri Western State in exhibition action at Rupp Arena. The game is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff and can be seen on the SEC Network.