Kentucky moved to 4-1 on the year and 2-0 in the Adolph Rupp Classic with a 70-62 win over the Trojans of Troy University in a game that was much closer than it should’ve been in the end.
Kevin Knox was the Cats’ leading scorer with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, while Quade Green and Wenyen Gabriel joined him in double figures with 13 and 12 points scored.
Let’s hit the major storylines from the rest of the game…
The Cats were rolling, and then they weren’t.
The first half was some of the best basketball Kentucky has played all year. They were really firing on all cylinders and took a 16-point lead into the break with a 32-17 edge on the glass. Finally! A start-to-finish blowout win on the way!
So we thought.
The early part of the second half was more of the same, but things went way south with about eight minutes to go. Troy quickly turned a 21-point Kentucky lead into a single-digit deficit in a span of five minutes. With a little more time, who knows, maybe the Cats get upset in a choke job of epic proportion.
Let’s just be glad the clock ran out before it got any worse. I’m still kind of shocked it happened, to be honest. The offense completely disappeared.
Nick Richards started with a bang.
After taking criticism for his quiet night against East Tennessee, Nick Richards came out strong to begin the game. He got the nod over Sacha Killeya-Jones in the starting five (against many fans’ wishes), and quickly proved he deserved the spot by scoring the first basket of the game and grabbing four rebounds in the first three minutes. Richards finished with his best outing as a Wildcat: eight points and eight rebounds in only 12 minutes played.
Why in the world does P.J. Washington turn it over so much?
Washington did some good things, but he’ll never get credit for any of them until he stops turning the ball over. He had four turnovers tonight, which is right in line with his season average through five games. At least it’s not as bad as the six turnovers he had Friday night against East Tennessee, right?
The victory cigar was lit in the first half, which was way too early.
We were treated to a surprise Brad Calipari sighting when Coach Cal’s baby boy checked into the game with 10 minutes to go in the first half. It’s the earliest Brad Calipari appearance I can ever remember, and it’s unclear why he was subbed in. Is Cal in trouble at home with Ellen? Or, maybe it was an early birthday present for her? Whatever the case, Kentucky’s victory cigar was lit before halftime, and it almost backfired.
Kevin Knox is the only player who can go get a bucket.
When the Cats were struggling to make a basket in the second half, Kentucky went to Kevin Knox out of a timeout and Knox ended a six-minute draught without a field goal. It’s sad, but Kentucky only had two made field goals in the final 10 minutes of the entire game, and both were by Knox.
Offense is a real problem.
Rebounding was much better.
Of all the reasons to be frustrated after almost blowing a game against the 148th-ranked team in the BPI, rebounding is not one of them. Kentucky finally dominated its opposition on the glass, hauling in 53 total rebounds to Troy’s 30.
Hamidou Diallo led the way with a career-high 10 boards, followed by Nick Richards and P.J. Washington with eight apiece.
Free throw shooting was better, but not good.
It wasn’t the 3-for-15 night of a few days ago, but Kentucky missed some big free throws and finished with a 15-for-23 clip. The team’s two offensive stars were the problem: Kevin Knox (2-5) and Hamidou Diallo (2-6). Those two have to be better because they’re going to take the most trips to the line.
It may be time for a second “come to Jesus” chat with the team.
As Matt Jones told you on the radio show, John Calipari had a spirited heart-to-heart with his team ahead of Monday’s game, essentially telling them to get their rear-ends in gear if they really want it. After seeing the way his team squandered a big lead, it may be time to have that talk again and emphasize finishing.
The first talk did enough to get them to play inspired early Monday night, but it wasn’t enough to get them to play a complete game. This was the first real opportunity to beat a team for 40 minutes, and they couldn’t do it.
Up Next: Fort Wayne
Will it be more of the same or will Kentucky finally pound someone into the ground?
We’ll know Thanksgiving Eve.