Kentucky improved to 12-3 on the season, 2-1 in SEC play tonight with a 56-47 win over Vanderbilt, but for the second game in a row, it was not pretty. It’s late, so let’s run through these takeaways and get to bed before the officials review another call.
Another slow start
I don’t know about you, but I’m sensing a pattern. Following the script of so many other games this season, Vanderbilt had the hot hand early, hitting three after three en route to a 16-4 lead. Not only were the ‘Dores making everything, they stymied the Cats on the opposite end with zone. Vandy led until the 1:50 mark of the first half when Tyler Herro tied the game at 28 and Kentucky didn’t take the lead until Keldon Johnson’s three with 18:48 to go in the second half. It was that kind of night.
Keldon, Ashton Hagans, and Immanuel Quickley scored 42 of Kentucky’s 56 points
If you guessed that this trio would combine for 75 percent of the Cats’ scoring tonight, I suggest you head to Las Vegas. Hooray for the guards?
Immanuel Quickley’s confidence continues to grow
One bright spot of Kentucky’s SEC play thus far has been Immanuel Quickley. The freshman guard turned in another impressive performance with 12 points, including three threes. Keldon was the only other Cat to score from the outside, showing that Quickley’s shooting is invaluable, especially when Tyler Herro is struggling. After scoring in double figures the last eight games, Herro was only 1-3 from the floor, 2-2 from the charity stripe for four points tonight; however, he had an impact in other areas of the game, grabbing six rebounds, dishing three assists, and blocking a shot. At least there’s that.
Keldon Johnson tried to take control
As previously mentioned, Kentucky didn’t lead until over a minute into the second half, when Keldon Johnson hit a three, his first since the Alabama game. Keldon did his best to take control at that moment, yelling, “Gimme that ****!”, but picked up his third foul less than a minute later. He didn’t come back in for another six minutes.
Ashton Hagans was great again
For the fourth game in a row, Hagans finished in double figures, with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 5 turnovers. He had to come out late in the game after falling awkwardly on someone’s foot and tweaking his back, but came back in a few minutes later. After the game, Calipari said Ashton is fine, which is great news because he’s Kentucky’s best player right now.
Reid Travis and PJ Washington worked the boards
Yes, Reid and PJ only combined for eight points; however, they also combined for 20 rebounds, more than half of Kentucky’s 38-21 advantage on the boards tonight. Calipari attributed PJ and Reid’s scoring struggles to the guards’ struggles against the zone; that being said, this feels like the third or fourth game in a row Reid’s been stripped or blocked on what should be an easy bucket, a sign he’s reverting to bad habits against athletic bigs in the SEC.
Nick Richards needs to play more
Once again, Richards didn’t play much, but contributed when he was in, scoring a bucket, grabbing a rebound, getting a steal, and taking a nasty punch to the face in ten minutes. Calipari said Richards made a “big difference” in the game and needs to play “another five, seven, eight minutes.” Baby steps.
Defense got better
While Kentucky’s offense only managed 56 points, by far the fewest of the season, the defense showed signs of improvement. After allowing Vandy to jump out to an early lead, the Cats held the ‘Dores to 17 points off 6-25 from the floor (24 percent), 2-14 from three (14.3 percent), in the second half.
A Guinness World Record was set
It didn’t come without some grumbling, but the Guinness World Record for most hard hats worn in the same place was set tonight after Bullard handed out free hard hats to the lower level:
— UK Sports Network (@UKSportsNetwork) January 13, 2019
Cool? Next year, Bullard should set another world record by giving them out to the entire arena.
Ugly win aside, Kentucky won
It was another wild day in college basketball, with Louisville beating North Carolina by 21 in Chapel Hill and Ole Miss knocking off No. 14 Mississippi State in Starkville. Had Florida State not left Cam Reddish wide open, Duke would have lost too. Complain about Kentucky’s ugly SEC wins all you want, but at least they are wins.
With that, I suggest you check out Dr. Mike’s photos and call it a night. On to Georgia.
The Cats overcame another slow start to come back and beat Vandy, as the Rupp Arena crowd set a Guinness Book of World Records mark for most people with a hardhat on in one place at one time.