Tubby Smith will return to Rupp Arena on Friday afternoon when he brings High Point to face No. 18 Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.
More than two decades ago, Smith coached the Wildcats to a national championship in 1998. In all, Smith won 263 games and five Southeastern Conference tournament titles as Kentucky’s coach, a tenure spanning from 1997 to 2007. Smith then coached at Minnesota, Texas Tech and Memphis before taking the reins of High Point — his alma mater — in 2018.
Before the start of Friday’s game, Kentucky will honor Smith by retiring a jersey with his name on it. Smith, 70, will be the fourth coach to have his name in the rafters at Rupp Arena, joining Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall and Rick Pitino.
“Tubby deserves to be in the rafters,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I want he and his wife and the kids to understand that this place — these fans, this school, this state — absolutely appreciates what he did while he coached here.”
Kentucky (10-2) is coming off its first SEC win of the season with an 83-56 victory over Missouri on Wednesday night. The Wildcats held the Tigers to 32.8 percent shooting from the floor and 20 percent from 3-point range. They also outrebounded Missouri by 14.
Four Wildcats scored in double digits, with Oscar Tshiebwe recording 13 points and 20 rebounds. He leads the nation in rebounding with an average of 15.8 per game.
Keion Brooks Jr. collected 17 points and nine rebounds against Missouri, while TyTy Washington Jr. had 14 points and Sahvir Wheeler added 11 points and nine assists. Those four players and Kellan Grady are averaging double digits in points per game for Kentucky this season.
The Missouri game was a bounce-back effort from Brooks, who had just five points and three turnovers a week ago in a 95-60 win over Western Kentucky.
“My swagger has to come through my energy, using my size, my length, my athleticism to make plays, running the floor. When I do things like that, good things happen — not just for me, but for the team,” Brooks said. “I think that’s what builds my swagger and what allows me to have fun playing the game, when I’m flying around and just making effort plays.”
High Point (6-7) is coming off a loss to another ranked opponent, an 81-68 setback at No. 10 Michigan State on Wednesday. The Panthers were leading the Spartans at halftime by a point before falling behind in the second half.
“I was impressed with our kids. We kept our composure for the most part and did a good job,” said Smith, now in his fourth year of coaching the Panthers. “We played hard. We did not always play as smart as I would have liked, but we played hard.”
Jaden House powered High Point with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting against Michigan State. Zack Austin added 15 points and eight rebounds, while Bryson Childress had 12 points and two boards in 17 minutes off the bench.
John-Michael Wright had just 10 points for the Panthers against the Spartans. However, he leads High Point in scoring this season with 20.2 points per game.
As a team, the Panthers are shooting 38.1 percent from behind the arc. Kentucky is only allowing opponents to shoot 26.4 percent from deep this season.
–Field Level Media