That was a nice way to end the weekend, wasn’t it? Kentucky took care of Duquesne 93-59 tonight in front of a surprisingly full — albeit at times bored — Rupp Arena crowd, considering the hour. Speaking of that hour, let’s break down the win, which moves Kentucky to 4-0 to start the season.
1. Wenyen Gabriel started over Derek Willis
Starting lineups don’t matter much, especially this early on, but it is worth noting that after impressive showings in the first three games, Wenyen Gabriel got the starting nod over Derek Willis. Gabriel once again showcased the hops and versatility we’ve come to expect from him, finishing with eight points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. If I were a betting woman, I’d pencil Wenyen in to that starting lineup until Derek does something to earn his spot back.
“I thought Wenyen played really hard,” Cal said. “Rebounded and all that.”
2. De’Aaron Fox led all scorers with 16 points
Fox had his fourth straight game in double figures, with 16 points (5-13), 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. He played the most minutes of any Wildcat, and, to me, continues to be the story of the season. In the second half, Fox burned the Dukes on back to back possessions, stealing the ball and flying past them in transition. After coming into the game with a perfect mark from the free throw line, De’Aaron finally missed a few, bringing his season total to 26-29. Calipari chalked that up to De’Aaron’s new hairstyle.
“How about he misses three free throws? I told him, go back to the other hair-do,” Cal quipped. “Go back to the other one.”
3. Monk and Briscoe also finished in double figures
Monk had 14 points off 6-12 shooting and Briscoe 13 points off 4-10 from the floor, making this the fourth straight game each member of Kentucky’s backcourt has finished in double figures. Briscoe sat most of the second half after taking a hard fall, but have no fear, the injury (UK said a bruise, Calipari said a foot) is a minor one.
Meanwhile, Malik Monk did Malik Monk things, like this:
Malik Monk with the dunk to wake you up pic.twitter.com/YobtByNSXf
– Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) November 21, 2016
4. The bigs finally got in on the fun
After going AWOL in the first three games, Kentucky’s frontcourt showed up tonight, with Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, and Sacha Killeya-Jones combining for 26 points and 16 rebounds. After losing the battle of the boards in two of the first three games, Kentucky outrebounded the Dukes 49-32.
“I thought Bam was outstanding. He’s getting closer and closer,” Cal said. “He’s making strides. He’s getting better every day. Making his free throws, he’s rebounding in traffic, he’s coming up with balls. He’s still got a ways to go, but he’s getting better.”
5. Kentucky’s defense was great again
Duquesne coach Jim Ferry called the Cats’ defense “overwhelming” and “relentless,” comparing Kentucky’s length and athleticism to North Carolina’s when they had Harrison Barnes (Ferry used to coach at LIU, which faced that UNC team in the NCAA Tournament). Ferry, who got a technical during the game for dropping an f-bomb, was frank when asked about Kentucky.
“We got our ass whooped is what we got,” Ferry said. “That’s one of the most talented teams I’ve seen with their length, athleticism, and depth. When John [Calipari] gets these guys playing this hard, it’s overwhelming. At times, I thought we couldn’t make a pass and, when we did, it was going to be blocked.”
Kentucky held Duquesne to 30% shooting and forced 17 turnovers, which may be impressive to you, me, and Jim Ferry, but Calipari wants more.
“Our discipline defensively is not where it needs to be,” Cal said, criticizing his squad’s inability to have seven perfect possessions in a row. “We’re not able to go seven perfect possessions. Don’t worry if they score. Did we play it the are right way. We’re not disciplined enough right now.”
6. Mychal Mudler had a career-high 13 points
One of the most pleasant surprises of the night was the play of Mychal Mulder, who finished with a career-high 13 points (5-11, 3-8 from the three-point line) and 4 rebounds. Calipari sounded like a proud papa afterwards.
“He made big strides today,” Cal said, praising Mulder for keeping his head up after missing a few shots. “Now normally we have all watched, he would never go make another shot until maybe the next game. He made one. He came off of side screen and he made a shot. That was a big step for him…He, today, made that shot. It was a big, big step for him.”
7. Mychal’s dunk in the first half was also nice:
Mychal Mulder with some early action pic.twitter.com/M7XLrV6MiK
– Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) November 21, 2016
8. Here’s a fun stat
…courtesy of Corey Price: Kentucky has won each of their first four games of a season by at least 21 points for the first time since 1948-1949.
9. Calipari tied Joe B. Hall’s record for wins in Rupp Arena
UK’s win tonight moved Cal to 122-4 at Rupp, which ties Joe B. Hall’s mark of 122-14. To honor the moment (which, even at the start, we all knew was coming), UK invited Joe B. to be the Y:
When notified of the accomplishment after the game, Calipari cheered sarcastically.
“It’s Final Fours and national titles and that’s what we chase here. So that’s all nice,” he said, adding of the other coaches who’ve coached at Rupp, “I just lasted longer than the other dudes.”
10. Kentucky will be the #1 team in the country tomorrow
So, get some sleep and we’ll celebrate then. As Calipari said, “folks, it’s really late.”