Last night, Kentucky’s freshmen learned that no matter how ugly it is, a win is a win, especially on the road in the SEC. After a long night in Memorial Gymnasium and a good night’s sleep, here are my takeaways from the Cats’ 87-81 victory over Vanderbilt.
1. Calipari’s still worried about who’s backing up Bam
In the first half last night, Bam Adebayo was excellent; the big man built on a string of impressive performances with a perfect 3-3 from the floor and 7-8 from the free throw line. Unfortunately, Bam got into foul trouble in the second half and also drew an earful from John Calipari after missing a gimme when he should have dunked it (a “Pebbles” moment, if you will). Regardless, Bam is improving and when he’s not in, Kentucky is extremely vulnerable in the post. Based on last night’s postgame press conference, this may be the number one issue bothering Calipari.
“I gotta get Isaac (Humphries) – I gotta figure out what we’re going to do when Bam (Adebayo’s) not in. We’ll keep trying Isaac, but if it can’t be Isaac, it can’t be Isaac. You saw that I went small. I kind of liked that. You’re still 6-(foot)-10 and 6-9. What do I think we’re the Lakers? We gotta have two 7-footers out there? I mean, we’re 6-10 and 6-9 and that’s with Wenyen (Gabriel) and Derek (Willis). But, a good win for us.”
Simply put: work in progress.
2. Freshmen are freshmen, but these freshmen are fun
Kentucky’s youth was on display at times last night, but De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk showed poise at the end, with Fox slashing to the lane and Monk draining four crucial free throws in the final twenty seconds of the game. You can tell the freshmen’s occasional lack of discipline irritates the crap out of Cal (like Monk’s showboaty dunk attempt in the second half), but even he admitted that this group is fun to watch.
“Look, I got good players. I’m sitting here, it’s not about me coaching. I’ve got really good players. My job is to get them more disciplined, more focused, playing when another team’s playing a certain way. But we got talented kids now. Watching this team play, you’ve got to have fun. Like, wow, this is fun watching them. The stuff they do, as fast as they’re playing, some unbelievable plays that they make.”
3. Calipari stole Jerry Tipton’s chair at the postgame press conference
Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aaron Fox spoke to reporters before John Calipari came out and left the two chairs at the podium covered in sweat. Cal’s presser got off to a hilarious start when he came in, saw the sweaty chairs, and made Jerry Tipton give up his seat so he didn’t have to sit in them:
4. Briscoe gave Calipari one high layup and that’s it
Calipari’s been trying to get Isaiah Briscoe to shoot his layups higher, and Briscoe did that at least once last night before returning to his usual form.
“I shot one high layup and it went in,” Briscoe said. “The rest of them were just my regular layups.”
Calipari was not surprised.
“No. He’s hard-headed. There’s no way. He hates the fact—I’d rather get five blocked and make one than miss four and make one.”
5. Both Briscoe and Fox were proud of how the team played in a half-court setting
Kentucky’s known for burning teams in transition, but both De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe said they were proud of how the team handled Vandy forcing them to play a half-court offense.
“It was extremely important, just being able to show people even if we’re not out and running that we can execute in the half-court,” Fox said. “I think that’s what we did in the second half.”
“I think today we showed people that not only are we a transition team, but we can play in the half-court also.”
(Yes…but please get the ball to Bam more often!)
6. Blue got in
Thank goodness Kentucky fans came to last night’s game, or it would have been a really embarrassing showing for Vandy. Blue got in all over the place, specifically the end zones:
— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) January 11, 2017
There were several brave Kentucky fans in the Vanderbilt student section:
Well done. Also, as Townsend Miller pointed out on Twitter, is that Patrick Towles’ twin on the right?
Even Bryce Drew commented on the number of Kentucky fans in the crowd last night.
“Crowd was great, but in the future, we’ve got to get a little more black and gold in there.”
Oh, Bryce. Good luck with that.
7. Calipari found a silver lining in Kentucky’s poor outside shooting
Kentucky was 1-9 from three-point land but still won, which Calipari saw as a blessing in disguise.
“I told them after the game, we were 1 for 9 from the 3 and I ecstatic, because when you’re 1 for 9 and you still win you prove to your team you do not need to make 3s to win. Many teams in this country if they’re not making 3s they got no chance of winning. We’re not one of them. This was a prime example. They played well.”
8. A Vanderbilt student won a three-year lease on a new car with this half-court shot
I hate Vandy’s weird ass gym more than anyone, but this was a really cool moment at halftime:
— VandyMBB (@VandyMBB) January 11, 2017
You go, Andre. Not even mad about that.
9. Karl Towns called in to ESPN’s broadcast
I was at the game, so I didn’t see this, but Karl Towns called in to ESPN’s broadcast to talk about the game because of course he did. Once I get some breakfast and wake up a bit, I’m going to hunt down the video to share it with you in case you also missed it. Karl is the best.
10. Baylor, Duke, and Indiana lost last night
Which makes this morning even more awesome. Not only did Duke lose, they got blown out by Florida State 88-72, and it shouldn’t surprise you, but Grayson Allen shoved a Florida State assistant coach, further cementing his legacy as the most unlikeable player in college basketball:
— Caleb Smith (@calebt_smith) January 11, 2017
Death, taxes, and Grayson Allen being a punk.
Radio in an hour…