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T.J.’s TAKES: UK beats an NCAA Tournament team by 15+

Well, that was a fun two hours. It wasn’t the prettiest game but UK’s late push closed out UNC Greensboro 78-61.

Here are five takeaways from Kentucky’s win.

1. The Win:

I know some fans will continue to panic and a lot of you all think UK stinks, but today was fun. It was good basketball between two tournament teams. The tempo was fun, the officiating was terrible and the atmosphere was the best we’ve seen at Rupp Arena all season.

Credit the fans at Rupp on Saturday. The opponent wasn’t a sexy name. It was an early start. It wasn’t a sellout crowd and the weather may have kept some folks away. But the 21,000+ fans that were there made a difference. Also, five-star forward Matthew Hurt said he wanted to see a good atmosphere and he saw a great environment tonight. Well done, UK fans.

As for the game itself, it was more of the same with different details. UK played a mix of average, bad and mediocre for about 32 minutes, but the final eight minutes I thought UK was mostly great. That team, the team that finished the game on a 14-2 run, is the group that can make the Final Four and beat just about anyone in the country.

2. Reid Travis:

You gotta be happy for the grad-transfer big. He came to UK to play in front of crowds like today and in his first “true” Rupp Arena experience he had his best game as a Wildcat. He finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

It’s not fun to imagine this team without Travis, so let’s not and instead focus on what he did well today. He’s obviously not going to play above the rim, but I have to imagine his opponents are black-and-blue after trying to guard him for the duration of the game. He outworks defenders and is completely relentless. UNCG had plenty of talent, but they didn’t have the muscle to handle Travis.

Reid Travis is like a sweat-stained t-shirt. He doesn’t go away. It may not always be pretty, but he’s always there and at any moment he’s going to get noticed. Persistent.

3. Keldon Johnson:

Something you all need to remember is that Johnson has a flavor for the extreme. He has a little MKG to him so when he goes down with an injury it doesn’t matter if someone stepped on his toe or it’s something major,  it’s going to appear he’s in a great deal of pain. So, I wouldn’t expect any long lasting injuries from Johnson.

He clearly has the highest ceiling on this team and it’s already evident that the Cats are reliant on his energy and ability to create offensively. Things slowed down a bit when he went to the locker room.

13 points was below average, but no concerns offensively from Johnson. However, I was blown away by the 11 rebounds. A lot of those were clutch boards in traffic, too.

I said it last week but he can be the type of guy to lead UK to four, five or six wins in March.

4. Some negatives:

All-in-all it was a nice win for Kentucky, but things are only going to get tougher moving forward and the Cats will have to be cleaner. Here are a few negatives:

  1. PJ Washington: He just has to be better. Kenny Payne called him out yesterday and it was a bummer he didn’t respond. Nothing wrong with nine points and eight rebounds, but we continue to ask why we only see dominant PJ for short stretches. At this point Travis and Montgomery are better frontcourt options until PJ can become more consistent.
  2. Turnovers: Still too many and this team is still too careless with the ball. 17 turnovers which led to 12 UNCG points (could have been a lot more). Washington had four and Herro had three. I still think the game is still going a little too fast for the freshmen, but not idea what’s up with PJ turning it over so much.
  3. Free Throws: 17-24 isn’t atrocious, but UK had been better this season. I don’t think you see Herro miss two in a game again anytime soon, so I’m not overly concerned, but it seemed like for a portion of this game free throws would matter so it can/should be better.
  4. Defense: More of the same for the majority of the game. UK was lost at times switching and late closing out on the perimeter.

5. Moving forward:

Things get tougher but I think UNCG was a great introduction into this tougher stretch. UK won’t be able to blowout teams playing average basketball for 40 minutes. There has to be great stretches from UK and moving forward there will need to be great stretches longer than 5-8 minutes.

Seton Hall had the lead the majority of the game against UofL before falling late. Utah isn’t great but they will be pumped to play at Rupp Arena. Then it’s UNC in Chicago and that will be a defensive nightmare for the Cats with how things stand right now. Then it’s the Louisville game at the KFC Yum! Center, where I’d guess the Cards would be the favorite as of today.

Things are going to be tough and Kentucky has to be better. But a positive spin is that UK played average/below average for 32 minutes and despite only playing well for eight minutes they beat an NCAA Tournament team by 17 points.

More of that team and the Cats will be in business.

Article written by TJ Walker

36 responses to “T.J.’s TAKES: UK beats an NCAA Tournament team by 15+”


    R.T. really has to be better on post defense, as well as making shots at-the-rim. He had a great overall double-double game, but he should have had 30 pts, easy, with how many put-backs he completely blew. As for the defense, he just can’t defend the post at all. Cal needs to move him away from the basket, and have him float around the key and perimeter. A 6′-8″ guy who can’t jump is much better suited defending shooters than slashers and dunkers.
    P.J. just needs to wake the hell up though….and stop doing stupid sh*t, like the F1 he got.

    1. BigolBlue

      Rt has 0 hops. He is not good on defense. Hard to be a good post defender when you cant jump.


      Yeah….that’s why I said “A 6?-8? guy who can’t jump”, and “Cal needs to move him away from the basket”.

    3. ibescootch

      RT really can’t jump. Cal should get him out of the paint, maybe put him around the 3 pt. line guarding guys who aren’t going to slash or are able to get to the rim. Just my two cents.

    4. BluejayK

      Are you serious? Our best rebounder? Out on the perimeter?


      ibescootch, your 2 cents are exactly what I said.

    6. chardun20


    7. WatchutalkinboutWillis

      You obviously have no clue about basketball if you think you take Reid Travis out of the paint and it improves our team.

    8. rockatao

      Sounds like a great plan … take your best rebounder and put him on the perimeter chasing little guys around the court.

    9. 4everUKblue

      Bigoldumbass can’t even defend himself, so STFU!

    10. Underdog

      No hops affects your ability to score in the paint rather than defend in the paint.

      Travis’ D against bigs is excellent now. His ability to score inside against leapers is where he lacks.

      I’d advise him to focus on making the shot. If he gets blocked then he gets blocked. So what?

      Just make the 4 to 6-foot shot! He is normally creating enough space through bumping and his pivots, so it’s hard for the leaper to block. The problem is Travis BELIEVES he’s going to be blocked so he overshoots and misses wildly quite often.

    11. timfmiller

      So tired of hearing how bad UK defense is. That was at the beginning of the year. They are improving and if you noticed they shut down UNCG in 2nd half, especially the “crafty” Alfonso. UK’s young guns are playing hard and improving— the better the competition the better the performance— that’s the cardinal rule of young, talented teams. If Coach Cal continues to recruit players with mindset of get to the NBA the fastest, he’ll always have these early struggles. BTW please get rid of Jimmy “I impress and repeat myself” Dykes— he’s horrible and “anal”ysis is elementary and obvious. No wonder he didn’t last long in the coaching profession— he’s mentally stunted.

  2. BigolBlue

    We have dropped so bad recently that everything is about a good win vs uncg. This is becoming comical. Cal wont win another title here and its more evident than ever.

    1. UKLugo

      Thats not just any UNCG team. That was a gutsy win.
      I’d throw Quade in that negative column. He was bad bad bad.

    2. UKPROF

      There are still, right now, at least 25 Division I teams that would beat us. We have a long way to go. We are going to get beat by at least 4 different teams in the SEC…yes, this year. So let’s just hope UK can continue to improve so that by the end of February we’re a solid Top 25 team.

    3. catsarerunnin

      Then BigolBlue don’t continue to torture yourself. Find a team to follow that wins every game and a title every year. Anything less would simply cause stress for someone who obviously can’t deal with anything that’s difficult. I’m sure you have a trophy case full of your hard earned participation trophies.

    4. Booby Petrino

      Fire Cal! Hire BigolBlue! BigolBlue for president, guy is a genius!

    5. 4everUKblue

      Bigoldumbass has obviously been a failure all his life and he just wants whats best for BBN, with that being the case, see iii by catsarerunnin.

  3. gasman01

    I know this is a basketball comment site, but the football games today could really break our way for a big six bowl. If UCF loses, Alabama loses, we could back into one of those bowls!!

  4. KYjellyRoll

    This team smelled blood and went for the kill in the second half. Love the mentality. I like my team. Go Cats

  5. Aar

    Look at the +/-. PJ’s contributions today were much more than traditional stats would ever reveal. He has much more scoring, rebounding and handling in him but he was a positive difference maker today. Active on both ends, getting hockey assists, drawing fouls and setting beautiful screens. Without him, this would have been an L.

    In his single minute of play, Richards brought energy, intensity and hustle. Eliminate the TO and he could deserve minutes. Liked seeing Baker dressed and warming up. Looking forward to a few minutes of playing time from him.

    Also, before putting this game in the “UK’s D sux” bin, consider that UNCG had not been held under 70 points all season, under 80 only once, had been over 100 twice and only lost to LSU by 6. Francis Alonso is an exceptional shooter who is uncanny at turning touches into points. UK (mostly Hagans!) kept him from going off. I think UK’s D made significant strides today. Still a work in progress but much better even than the D we saw against Monmouth.

    I live in Greensboro and have been to 3-4 Spartans games for each of the past 4 seasons. They were the in state cupcake for ACC teams through 2016. Now they can’t get an ACC team to schedule them. They are significantly better than their SoCon schedule indicates. I loved being in Rupp today to see the Cats cover the spread on a good opponent. It was worth the trip and the expensive tickets.

    1. RAGE

      Nice post

    2. RAGE

      And points

  6. Catfan24

    As for the game itself, it was more of the same with different details. UK played a mix of average, bad and mediocre for about 32 minutes, but the final eight minutes I thought UK was mostly great. That team, the team that finished the game on a 14-2 run, is the group that can make the Final Four and beat just about anyone in the country.

    Wtf does any of this rhetoric mean? We played avg and bad and mediocre for 32 mins but the team that played good for the last 8 mins of the game can make the final 4 and beat just about any team in the country.

    Way to take a definitive stand there tj. I agree totally ,uk played good bad and mediocre for 32 mins at rupp vs uncg and if they play as good as they did in the last 8 mins we could beat some of the teams that may make the final 4. Possibly. If we dont play good bad or mediocre for the first 32 mins, and if we play uncg in the elite 8 we may make the final 4.

  7. Catfan24

    Also have absolutely no clue what the section on keldon johnsons injury meant. No latter if its his big toe or something seious its gonna appear as if hes in a grwat deal of pain??? If any player actually had a serious injury wouldnt it appear as if theyre in a grat deal of pain if they really had a serious injury and were actually in a great deal of pain.

    And btw are you still not counting out james wiseman or vernon carey or both to uk until their recruitment is final?

  8. Catfan24

    For the final 8 minutes i thought uk was mostly great. At times; during the final 8 minutes; the were mostly great; except for the 2-3 minutes of the final 8 minutes that they were not mostly great. Of those 2/3 mins of the last 8 mins they played as bad as they did for the most part of the majority of the first 28-30 mins of rhe first 31-32 mins when they played averaged to mediocre to bad for the most part. But id keldon johnson doesnt have a toe injury that appears to be a major injury like mkg never had we could beat any of the teams in the country thst might make the final 4. And if they can do thst they may still be an underdog ro louisville at the yum center. Keldon johnson has alot of dog in him if he doesnt have a toe injury. And nic richards starts when he needs to build confidence, unless he’s 4th in the rotation after starting for an entire season and the last 3 games.

  9. kuhlkat

    One rimmed out free throw from shooting 75% for the game and we are counting that as a weakness?
    What a reach

  10. clarks

    i saw a team that worked together to beat a good team.they grew up some today.still a ways to go but i like my team.

  11. clarks

    yall crazy if u dont think they got a shot at nc.

  12. JMFATZ47

    What on gods green earth has happened to Quade?

    1. Aar

      @ FATZ Isaiah Miller is just quicker. As coach Cal said. Personally, I would have liked for Quade to fouled instead of allowing straight line drives.

    2. DoronLambisthebestSGinUKhistory

      One bad game. 4-7 from three on Wednesday

  13. ky1988

    This UNC Greensboro is no joke they have a chance to make run in the NCAA tournament as a 13 seed. To me this was Kentucky best win so far.

    1. BigolBlue

      And could be one of the only good one of year. Good resume

  14. JASUN74

    TJ ! You’re going a great job here man. Don’t let the SO CALLED FAN, determine how you write. You don’t need to apologize or explain yourself to a bunch of idiots. It doesn’t matter if some (FANS), yeah right, it doesn’t matter what they think about the team because they don’t care!! They’re just waiting for something to happen so they can be negative about it. Haha. It’s so funny and really don’t know why you guys don’t clean house on a bunch of stupid azzs. Really!! They sir and watch, just hoping for someone to miss a shot or free throw. A turn over!! Watch out. It’s a shame because a lot of people love Kentucky Football and Basketball and all sports for that matter, and want to talk and discuss our team. But if you all even read the comments you know who they are. It probably is a bunch of 12 year olds because they sure act like it. Say that got tickets and all that but yet they hate all the coaches and all the players. Their parents should take away their tickets and computers!! Hahahaha. You know who you are kids. Just let the grown folks talk and play with your teddy bears.

  15. JASUN74

    Doing a great job. Not going. Lol. And. Sit an wait, not sir an wait.