Take a deep breath, Big Blue Nation. Kentucky broke out of its funk by snapping its four-game losing streak with a win over a hot Alabama team in Rupp Arena. The Cats led for most of the game and closed it out with a final score of 81-71.
Celebrate with these 10 takeaways from Saturday afternoon…
1. Kentucky owned the glass.
Of all the positive takeaways from Kentucky’s first win in five games, the team’s dominance on the glass stood out the most. The Cats hauled in 44 rebounds to Alabama’s 27, including a season-high 20 offensive rebounds. Kentucky got 20 second-chance points off of those boards, and at one point in the game had rebounded over half of their own misses.
2. Five players in double digits.
PJ Washington, Kevin Knox, Quade Green, Jarred Vanderbilt and Nick Richards all reached double-figure scoring in the game.
3. Jarred Vanderbilt showed up in crunch time.
John Calipari often talks about making the “winning plays” down the stretch, so he must be very pleased with how Jarred Vanderbilt played in crunch time. Vanderbilt had his usual offensive struggles throughout the game, but scored six crucial points on three straight made baskets in the final minutes to maintain his team’s lead. His 11 points in the game put him in double figures for the first time in his career and he was one rebound shy of making that his first career double-double. If he can continue to chip in 10+ points per game, it’ll be impossible to keep him off the floor because he does everything else and is easily the best rebounder.
4. Quade Green outplayed Collin Sexton.
Collin Sexton may be a projected lottery pick and All-SEC selection, but he wasn’t the best point guard on the floor Saturday. That honor goes to Quade Green, who outplayed his counterpart in Kentucky’s win. The two freshmen tied with 12 points apiece, but Green was much more efficient from the field (5-of-6) and had four assists with no turnovers, while playing solid defense on Sexton.
5. The Cats survived Knox’s first half no-show.
Kentucky scored 39 points and took a five-point lead into the half with zero points, zero assists and zero rebounds from Kevin Knox. Knox would eventually get going midway through the second half, but it was nice to see Kentucky hold its own and outplay Alabama when Knox was contributing nothing. The whole team chipped in to cover for him when he was off.
Knox did finish with 13 points and five rebounds though, so he more than made up for the rough start after halftime.
6. How much longer can Diallo play?
We’re often a little tough on Hamidou Diallo, but it’s not without reason. Kentucky is better when he isn’t on the floor and that was the case again Saturday, although he was a little better than he has been. Like Cal said after the Auburn game, it’s tough to watch him struggle because he’s out there trying as much as anyone and it’s just not working. Everyone feels bad for the guy, but how much longer can he take up minutes when there are better options? He can’t keep missing shots and then doing things like this:
Diallo, just too easy to score on for a guy with his tools and quickness pic.twitter.com/CpWGHL136f
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) February 17, 2018
Sign me up for a Green/Gilgeous-Alexander primary backcourt.
7. Assists are still a problem.
Only 10 assists for the Wildcats today on 28 made baskets. There has only been one game with more than 10 assists in Kentucky’s last six.
That’s not good.
8. 23,220 people sang the national anthem and it was awesome.
— Opera Lex (@OperaLex859) February 17, 2018
9. Derek Willis and Bam Adebayo returned to Rupp Arena.
It was good to see Willis and Adebayo back in Rupp to see the game. Adebayo served as the celebrity Y, and Willis provided one of the highlights of the afternoon during a courtside interview during a timeout. When asked how things are going in Detroit, Willis told the crowd, “The G-League sucks but I’m okay with it.” He’s a man who tells it like it is.
10. It was an all-around great day.
Rupp Arena sang the national anthem as one collective choir, the Firecrackers did their thing at halftime, a woman won a truck, a guy hit a halfcourt shot for $10,000 and Kentucky broke its losing streak with a crucial win over a tournament team.
It was a Saturday we all needed.