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Notes And Observations From An Ugly Kentucky-Kansas game

Of all the marquee basketball games we’ve seen, that was one of them.

The Champions Classic’s nightcap pitted the No. 4 and No. 7 teams in college basketball against each other, but neither side played like a ranked team. One can chalk it up to youth and inexperience; the other is Kansas, and I think they’re still jacking up contested jumpers in the United Center parking lot.

Unfortunately for the Big Blue Nation, John Calipari’s young Wildcats were on the losing side in the end, 65-61; but the way they fought and hung in there down the stretch is a major positive takeaway going forward. They have several things to learn and improve on after only three college basketball games in their careers, and they were still in the hunt until the final buzzer against a veteran team. We’ll take that, right?

More postgame thoughts from Chicago…

The Kansas guards were not good.

Devonte Graham, a National Player of the Year candidate (allegedly), was 3-for-14 from the field with five turnovers. Coming into this one, he was projected to be the best player on the court. Instead, we watched him jack up some of the worst shot attempts one could take, and only hit his mark three times in the entire game. Now some of that can be attributed to UK’s defense, but most of the time he was just throwing up bricks to throw up bricks. It was a rough night for one of college basketball’s top players (allegedly).

Joining Graham in the awful game discussion is Malik Newman, who went 4-for-14 from the field. Yes, you can commend him for the big three-pointer late, but Kentucky was in the game because he drove into the lane with his head down all night, only to watch his shots get swatted. Newman couldn’t take enough bad shots; unfortunately, he hit one wide open three-pointer in the end that proved to be the biggest shot of the game. You live with that one after all the garbage he threw up before that moment.

Kansas’ third “star” guard, LaGerald Vick, wasn’t much better than his friends. He went 4-for-13 from the field, which makes them 11-for-41 as a group. They’re Bill Self’s three offensive weapons and they could not score from the field (4-for-16 from outside, too). If they had done anything close to what they’re capable of, Kansas runs away with this one. But their offensive struggles made it a ball game, and to me, that’s your story.

Kevin Knox is Kentucky’s only offense. 

As bad as the Kansas offense was, Kentucky’s wasn’t much better. It was pretty much the Kevin Knox show when the Cats needed a bucket as he led the team with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. It’s pretty clear he’s going to need some major help, but for the immediate future it’s mostly going to fall on his shoulders when Hamidou Diallo isn’t playing well. That was the case tonight, and Knox had a great game outside of the forced shot attempt in the final seconds with his team down two.

Nick Richards and P.J. Washington have to do better.

Richards and Washington may want to forget this one. Together they combined for seven of Kentucky’s 18 turnovers and only four points.

Richards did grab nine rebounds, but he was a liability offensively. Washington had some key blocks, but he wasn’t much help anywhere else.

Sacha Killeya-Jones showed some promise, and that’s exciting.

We’ve long wondered when Killeya-Jones will have his breakout moment, and it might’ve been in this one. Kentucky’s sophomore big man had eight points and nine rebounds in only 23 minutes of action, and he showed off a jump shot that put some much-needed points on the board when UK’s offense was non-existent. If he can continue to hit that shot consistently, he’ll have to see more of the floor. The same goes for his rebounding, which he also did well.

As good as Knox was, Killeya-Jones may be the brightest takeaway for Kentucky.

Kansas only had six players.

The Jayhawks were gassed in the end (especially the big fella), and they have Billy Preston to thank for that. In case you missed it, Bill Self benched his star freshman right before tip-off due to an investigation into the financing of a car he wrecked over the weekend. It sounds like some serious trouble, and it didn’t hurt Kentucky’s chances that he sat in street clothes on the sideline.

Kentucky is still kind of a mess right now, but they’re fighters.

The offense is so disorganized and often lost. There were way too many inexcusable turnovers. The defense gives up too many good looks. It was far from a good, clean game.

That being said, it’s to be expected from a team of kids who are only five days into their college careers. Those things will work themselves out in time. The one thing you can’t really teach at this point in the season is playing hard and not giving up, and that’s exactly what they did in a game in which they weren’t playing sound basketball. Close games like this will go a long way in their overall development, and those sloppy miscues and disorganization will be fixed with each passing game. Kentucky isn’t a great basketball team right now, but they sure do have the pieces to be one on down the road.

To quote John Calipari, I like my team.

Good night from Chicago.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

14 responses to “Notes And Observations From An Ugly Kentucky-Kansas game”

  1. UKLugo

    The team showed some grit and promise.
    Richards is about what I expected at this point; but, if this team really needs him(or someone) to develop into a back to the basket option.
    Washington has been disappointing thus far. Right now, he’s a turnover machine.
    We have quite the conundrum at the PG position. Green is better for the offense. Shai is better for the defense. Shai is really limited offensively right now- almost to the point of being a liability. He’s not confident in his shot and he turns it over way too much.

    It’s early and I like their attitude. However, I still cant tell how high the ceiling is for THIS team. Final 4 or NIT?

  2. Daddyof3Ballers

    That was hard to watch, but I️ liked the heart they showed! When Jared comes in and gets settled in, and as each player adjusts to the speed of the game we will look better. We will lose 6-9 games but tourney time you don’t want us in your bracket

  3. henderblue

    Agree with above comments. And also Drew, frustrated with Cal not playing some zone. Our best offense comes from our defense, deflecting balls and getting out on the break. We are not a good half court offensive team. We’re just not. Maybe we’ll get there I hope. Look at what Duke did last night in the zone defense. Give Coach K credit for trying it. As I remember he’s never played a lot of zone either. I don’t buy Cal’s argument that zone doesn’t prepare them for pros. They are young. They can learn that. For now they need to play for the UNIVERSITY of KENTUCKY!!

    1. Angelo

      Agree. Our only hope this year is the sporadic use of the zone to psyche out the opposition. They will be paralyzed with fear! Five 7 foot wingspans!!!

    2. callitlikeiseeit

      Angelo….Since Cal has been here we are just about getting kids and their families taken care of, get to NBA. Even at the expense of UK winning, I will play the twins instead of Ulis and Booker to get them to the league or Dleague. No team has a title chance depending on just Freshman and inexperienced Soph. We have no shoat at a title this year so what is the point of the season, we are UK and should be about titles. Instead of prepping for a late March run we prep for a late June draft. But we can brag about how many NBA players we have…..woooo hoooo.

    3. J-Dub421

      callitlikeiseeit, go cheer for some other team then. UK is not for you. Try U of L they never have one-and-dones so they should be more your speed.

  4. UKinIN

    The defense wasn’t the reason UK lost. Azubuike had 13 points not 30. If UK rebounds in the first half and eliminates the careless turnovers they win by 10.

  5. Sentient Third Eye

    The guy who needs to step up more is Gabriel. He largely disappeared in the kind of game where he should have excelled. He did a great job transforming his body in the off-season, but now he is in danger of turning into another “Looks like Tarzan; plays like Jane” kid. He needs a breakthrough game.

    1. UKLugo

      No doubt. I don’t see all this improvement so many have been talking about in Gabriel. Not that I expect any more than normal improvement; but I keep hearing Gabriel this and Gabriel that. I dont see it yet and the team could obviously use it.

    2. kentuck1

      In my opinion, Gabriel and Shai are erratic on offense. They are like nervous waterbugs. They make the rest of the team turnover-prone.

      We need to have a starting five that we can have in the game at the end. It is probably too early to pick those five right now but it will need to be done. I think Richards is going to be a star in the future. You can see the potential there. As of right now, the best player on the floor, other than Knox, is probably Sacha Killea-Jones. He has vast improved his game.

      PJ Washington is going to be a horse before the season is over. Right now, the puzzle seems to be to find the right guard combo to go with Green?

      I see a possible Final Four team here if they progress as they should.

  6. ArmyCatFan

    Baker and Vanderbilt should help the offense when they get healthy. I liked the fight. The team defense looked pretty as though. They need to lock that down early this year until Dec-Jan when the offensive help arrives.

  7. Jiminy Crickets

    I said last night UK doesnt have a PG and got a lot of “give them time” responses. Green runs the offense better than SGA but NO ONE is afraid of him driving the ball, and back off him, so he cant throw the lob. SGA is much better defensively but has ZERO ball handling skills, and runs to a spot and picks the ball up, causing him to get trapped at the high post. This turns into fast break TO at the other end. SIX times this occurred.

    Were long, but we cant rebound, KU got so many 2nd chance points I felt like throwing the TV in the yard.

    I watched a primarily freshman led Duke (they start 4 freshman) play exceptional on both ends of floor, to beat a really good MSU. Both of those teams cruise by us. When Dukes best player, and probably the best player the country,was injured early in the game, they went to their veteran guard. This is not an option for us.

    1. jaws2

      Soooo Crickets, I suppose you didn’t watch the 2nd half where we destroyed Kansas on the boards? Yes we were lax in the 1st but dominated the boards in the second half. Geez, watch an entire game once in a while.

  8. Luether

    There’s NO EXCUSE for the 1st half rebounding performance…