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Bahamas Kentucky is back, and it looks like they might be here to stay

November 6th was a frustrating day for the Big Blue Nation. It wasn’t the fact that Kentucky lost, it wasn’t necessarily the fact that it was Duke, and it really wasn’t even the point differential.

The frustration stemmed from the tremendous expectations everyone had coming into the year.

The Bahamas trip had fans genuinely believing this was a team capable of challenging the 2014-15 team in terms of overall depth, talent, and chemistry. They were two-deep at every position with a perfect mix of size, experience, and skill-set. They might not have run the table like that historic unit nearly did, but fans just knew this team could display absolute dominance over any given opponent in similar fashion.

When the Duke nightmare happened, Kentucky coaches, players, and the fanbase as a whole were dealt a heavy dose of reality. And it was a reality check that lingered throughout Lexington, a hangover that no one has truly gotten over… until last night.

On Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats we expected to show up to start the season finally arrived with a bang. And it may have been just enough to energize a fanbase that truly hasn’t been itself since Kentucky’s previous matchup with North Carolina in the 2017 Elite Eight when… Well, you know what happened.

Kentucky didn’t play the perfect game. They didn’t shoot the ball all that well (44 percent from the field, 34.6 percent from three), the bench only scored four points total, and they turned the ball over 18 times.

But it was still a performance the Big Blue Nation couldn’t help but fall in love with. It was an effort that is absolutely sustainable for the long haul, an underrated aspect of this game that fans need to get excited about.

On both ends of the court, the Wildcats implemented the think less, act more mentality Calipari has been begging for since the season began. He has told the media on numerous occassions that this team will reach its true potential when they just play on instinct, and the numbers show they did just that.

For starters, the Wildcats outrebounded the No. 1 rebounding team in America by a tally of 43 to 33. A North Carolina team that grabs an average of 46.1 total rebounds and 12.7 offensive per night finished with 33 and five in those categories. The Tar Heels have not had an offensive rebounding percentage that low since February of 2016. On the Wildcats’ end of things, no player finished with more than ten rebounds and no one in the eight-man rotation failed to grab a board. It was a balanced effort across the board.

To put it simply, Kentucky just flat-out outworked the most dominant rebounding team in the nation on the glass.

In other effort-focused statistics, Kentucky finished with 24 assists on 28 field goals, 11 steals, and nine blocks. On offense, the ball movement was impeccable, working the ball inside and out and waiting through the shot clock until they found the open shot. And when those opportunities came, there was zero hesitation from anyone on the floor, with the entire unit finishing with a season-high 65 field goal attempts and 26 three-point attempts on the day. If shots weren’t falling, and they weren’t for a while in the first half, they trusted their efforts on defense to make a stop for another shot opportunity the next time down the floor.

In specific player efforts, Ashton Hagans was the epitome of this mindset, having a methodical recklessness to his game that resulted in seven points, four rebounds, three assists, eight steals, one block, and five turnovers. He’s a technician on the defensive side of the ball and a facilitator on offense, playing both by just hitting the ground running. When the opponent showed even the slightest bit of space while dribbling or bringing the ball across their body, Hagans made a play. He’d wait for even the slightest mistake by a North Carolina ball-handler or passer and pounce at the perfect opportunity, reminiscent of former Kentucky guard Rajon Rondo. It was an effort that actually tied the school record held by Rondo and Wayne Turner for steals in a single game (eight).

Hagans was the heartbeat of the team, and everyone followed suit in their own ways.

Reid Travis was an absolute bully down low, finishing the day with 20 points on 6-15 shooting, seven rebounds, and three assists. And frankly, there wasn’t a Tar Heel defender that could stop him in the paint. He’d outwork his opponent and either score, draw a foul, or have defenders collapse on him to create open opportunities elsewhere on the floor. He was the anchor for the team on offense. As John Calipari told CBS after the game, Travis is a flat-out “beast,” and this program is lucky to have him. When all else fails, you can rely on the graduate transfer to make big plays and put the ball in the basket.

Finishing with a team-high 21 points on 7-11 shooting (4-7 from three), Keldon Johnson also proved once again why Calipari called him the team’s most consistent shooter this offseason. He didn’t necessarily have the highlight-worthy plays we’re used to, but the team didn’t need that last night. They needed a player with the ability to knock down big shots in crunch time to create cushion on the scoreboard and put pressure on North Carolina on the other end of the floor. At the 7:55 mark in the second half, Johnson drilled back-to-back threes to push Kentucky’s lead to 11, ruining any momentum North Carolina felt they had. It never felt like UNC could claw their way back, an obvious change from what we’ve seen from the team thus far.

Unlike what we saw in the Seton Hall game, the Wildcats drew first blood and forced the Tar Heels to respond, not the other way around. They were proactive and forced the reaction.

After a cold start to the game, Tyler Herro found his groove by finishing with 15 points on 6-17 shooting and 3-8 from three. He also added four rebounds and five assists. It felt like he was learning on the fly this game after overthinking a bit in the first half.

PJ Washington also flirted with a triple-double, adding 11 points (5-9 shooting), ten rebounds, and eight assists in 30 minutes of action. It was the perfect example of Washington letting the game come to him without forcing the issue. Hitting one of three shots from deep, the sophomore forward missed only two shots from within 15 feet. He was efficient and went out of his way to facilitate his teammates. He may not have been the team’s most dominant scoring threat, but one could argue it was one of Washington’s best performances in a Kentucky uniform.

Beyond individual contributions, the overall team chemistry was the best we’ve seen since the season began. The smiles were back and the overall enjoyment of the game was there. For the first time this year, the “fun” aspect of Kentucky basketball was back.

This is the blueprint John Calipari can use to make this team reach its potential. No one on the team did anything they can’t do on a regular basis to help win the game (obviously eight steals a night isn’t sustainable for Hagans, but maximum defensive pressure certainly is). No one shot lights out or had a few more lucky bounces than usual, and with 18 turnovers, there were obviously mistakes made. But their relentless effort on both ends compensated for some of those mistakes and allowed for a dominant victory against a truly elite basketball coach and team.

If Kentucky plays the way they did last night, they can beat anyone in the nation. They can look like the team we saw down in the Bahamas this summer based solely on grit and hustle. Points will come, but intensity is the key for this team to become the Final Four squad they are capable of being.

And by the looks of things, they realized that last night.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

61 Comments for Bahamas Kentucky is back, and it looks like they might be here to stay

  1. Alleykat16
    12:36 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    They looked really good yesterday. And they rebounded the ball and most important they blocked out. They kept Maye off the glass. He came in averaging a double double. And our bigs kept him off the glass. That’s what I really liked about the game. PJ and Travis owned the lane and wasn’t allowing NC in there to rebound the ball. Now let’s put together another great game on the 29th in an extremely hostile arena.

  2. Alleykat16
    12:39 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    I was so glad to see PJ and Travis doing what they did and Haggens played like he was a thief stealing everything he touched. Great play.

    • stunninsteve
      4:55 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      This game just tickled my family pink! My stepdaughter dates a tar heel fan, and he had a lot to say in the days leading up to game day. We gave it back to him in SPADES, then the Cats backed it up just beautifully. Last I heard, he can’t make it in for Christmas, to which I say “give me an extra helping of stuffing”!

  3. 4everUKblue
    12:42 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    Anyone else notice haters like Le Docteur, UKprofessor, bigoldumbass (aka slater, combatmedic) are missing from the comments section after a big win? Seems they’re only happy when they criticize and complain.

    • IrishCat
      12:50 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      They’re the worst.

    • bigbluebanana
      1:04 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Slater tried last night, but got shit down by everyone, so he stopped. Cue him showing up to say something in 3..2..1..

    • Han
      1:20 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      I noticed a ton of supposed Kentucky fans snidely proclaiming UNC would easily beat us yesterday.

    • Miller45
      3:42 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      Thinking they were going to lose isn’t necessarily being unsupportive

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      2:22 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Don’t forget Jiminy Crickets.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      3:16 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Love u too.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      3:23 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      The difference is, I am a UK fan and grad that loves the school, and everything about it. I’ve openly said 1000 times, I don’t like Calipari the coach, but as an ambassador he’s great. I graduated in ‘99 and jumped on hoods of cars on Euclid almost every year I was there. My daughter was a freshman in ‘12. Me not liking Calipari doesn’t make me a hater. And no, I don’t want him fired, I just don’t like new team every year, suck through first half of season, roller coaster the second half in hopes of turning it on in March. I’d be willing to bet I’ve been to more games in Rupp this year than 99% of the KSR bulldogs

    • catsarerunnin
      3:30 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      You’re no fan Jenny. You would whine regardless of the coach. I pity any real fans who are unfortunate enough to sit by you at Rupp.

    • Luether
      8:48 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Sounds like you’re the hater on here – just trying to stir up some $h!t…

    • 4everUKblue
      10:19 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Oh I forgot Luether, he pretends to be a UK fan. One thing I do hate is a troll and that’s what Luether is.

  4. CKTermy23
    12:45 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    I think it’s too soon to say that just yet. Let see if they keep playing well first one game at a time before we make that judgement call.

    • syrin23
      1:38 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      I understand your hesitation, but I do think this turns the corner for them. If they ever play a game without full effort, they can look back to this game to see the difference. This also gives them an injection boost a young team needs. I think this switches the switch for Tyler too. You could seem him over thinking on offense. Tow of his threes were in and out. This could have easily been a 20 point win. the second half refereeing was ridiculously one sided. And if we just a few more threes or lay ups, 20+ point win.

    • michaelb
      1:48 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Yea a couple of Herro shots went all the way in and back out . I was hoping all he threw up would ring through

    • syrin23
      1:39 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      *confidence injection

      and Tyler was overthinking prior to this game. This game he reacted.

    • J. Did
      7:13 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      KENTUCKY ran the floor 20 minutes in the first half. Repeated in the second. So did unc. Play great DEFENCE. Clear the boards. Run the floor. Press. The buckets will amass. The team that is in the best physical condition has the advantage. GO CATS!

  5. CKTermy23
    12:47 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    I will say this there is no chance UofL out rebounds us we are easily the bigger more physical team the team that has one this game has won the rebounding war. However UofL is the better shooting team right now this game has the making of a trap game.

    • syrin23
      1:39 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Not with a week to prepare.

    • henderblue
      9:39 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      CK, trap games usually are games where a team overlooks another team. Our guys are not going to overlook the dirty birds

  6. IndianaSucks
    1:21 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    One game doesn’t mean “we’re back” but definitely a start in the right direction. Looked good yesterday. At least we have one good game under our belt going into a tougher than originally thought game vs UofL.

    • J. Did
      7:00 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Best moniker on this board. And the answer to the age-old question: “What keeps KENTUCKY from falling into tennessee”?

      I do agree.

  7. maxblackanvil
    1:39 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    Referees and too many missed 3 point attempts kept NC in the game. I looked and say that NC had 3 fouls called with 9 minutes left. Doing their Chapel Hill thing where no fouls called until garbage time to even up the totals.

    • syrin23
      1:40 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      I couldn’t agree more.

    • Skooms
      4:43 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      That and also tge fact that Luke Maye would hit a crazy 3 like EVERY time we took a 10-11 point lead. Without those, our boys woulda won by 20+ even with the crappy calls.

  8. wyatts1
    1:48 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    Young team with loads of potential, we essentially beat North Carolina at their own game, no easy task for anyone.
    I wonder why so many believe that uol is our biggest rival? I’m not that old but to me dUKe is our biggest rival and that’s the main reason why I hated losing to them but I’ve never doubted this team, ever. The transition from high school to college is a big one, and often heart and hustle is the difference, but seeing this team beat unc in the manner they did, was the next chance for them to redeem themselves after losing their first marquee match up that was a blunder against duke. This time though they got up, they didn’t have that deer in the headlights look and kicked some ass!!
    Is it just me? Am I in the minority in thinking duke is our main rival? Uol is just simply a team from the same state that got our leftovers (in Pitino) but besides that they was about as much a threat as the crackhead down the street lol

    • BluejayK
      6:09 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Louisville is no doubt our rival, and despite what anyone says, they are a legit top 6-10 program all time. That being said I get the same nerves playing Duke that I do playing UL. If we played Duke yearly I would def agree with you.

  9. VirginiaCat
    1:49 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    The team’s progress may be linked to modifications that Cal has made to his coaching approach. It seems that he has come to realize that he can’t hold the reins too tight if he wants this team to play like they did in the Bahamas. This may have been the “tweak,” i.e., allowing the team to play a style that fits them. I think this is what he means when he says that he wants the players to be team directed versus coach directed. I also noticed that Cal used his timeouts more effectively. If my perceptions are accurate, I give Cal credit for making adjustments to his coaching methods in order to maximize his team’s potential.

    • IrishCat
      2:21 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      That’s not how coaching works, you can’t just change the way players play in one game. The real answer is that they’ve been working toward becoming a good team LIKE THEY DO EVERY YEAR, and it’s starting to come together. If you really think Cal just woke up to what you’ve known all along, changed his approach and implemented it in one week, you’re a special kind of special.

    • bigblue2284
      9:38 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      They have been borderline unwatchable the last two years, I wouldn’t say they come together every year. If what you mean is they eventually become competitive then maybe. Cal hasn’t had a dominate team since the 38-1 squad, recruiting since then has been lackluster. They will get better but not truly be a contender in part because of talent and also because Cal can’t coach.

    • ScottGreene22
      1:34 pm December 24, 2018 Permalink

      2011 Team is proof CAL can coach. He may be stubborn to a fault sometimes but the man knows what he doing. I don’t agree with everything he does ( Zone D press inbounds plays calling and not calling timeouts etc) but the he deserves and has earned the right to triumph or fail doing it his way. CAL has forgot more about Basketball then most of us know.

    • 4everUKblue
      1:32 pm December 24, 2018 Permalink

      bigblue I suspect you’re really slater aka bigolblue and combatmedic. You can keep you negative bulls!t to yourself.

  10. AtlKatFan
    1:58 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    Great article Jack! You captured the excitement and joy of both the players and fans alike! Great Christmas present!

  11. 2thepoint
    2:03 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    It was a great effort, and was a fun game to watch.

  12. VirginiaCat
    3:00 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    Irish Cat: Thank you for recognizing that I am “special.” I know you meant it in the kindest way possible. I take your point. I do think that “team directed” vs. “coach directed” was recognition on Cal’s part that he needed to allow his team more freedom to play a style that accentuated their strengths. I am not suggesting that was the only factor, but it was a big contributor to the Cats’ strong performance. Sometimes “tweaks” apply to coaching as well as playing. Lets just agree to disagree on this one. Enjoy the holidays while I bask in my specialness.

    • IrishCat
      3:31 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      Yes, I should be more civil, but fir crying out loud. He’s been using terms like “player first” “team led” “it has to come from them” etc. for 10 years. Not a single bit of this is new or a recent “recognition”, it’s a coach working and talking through a process the exact same way he does every year. The only thing that changes are the players (that’s the fun part) and the fans memories (that’s the nauseating part). Enjoy the ride, and enjoy the holidays. Go Cats.

    • ktelectricatfan
      5:57 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      You’re 100% correct brother. The same thing happens every single year, you’d think the fans would be used to it by now.

  13. stunninsteve
    10:21 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

    There are all different types of Cat fans on these boards. We have everyone from the diehard believers to the one foot in the door types to the “chicken little’s”(sky is falling). Just like America has all sorts of different people. I tolerate them all because it’s a free country and commonwealth, despite the fact the ksr crew and a couple buttholes on here’s mommies told them that they could decide who is and isn’t a “true fan”. Heck, Matt Jones went to duke, he’s the absolute last authority on what constitutes a Kentucky fan.

    • stunninsteve
      10:23 pm December 23, 2018 Permalink

      That being said, Matt knows more about UK athletics than 95% of casual fans.

    • BigolBlue
      8:38 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      And he is a known message board troll. He is on here under a few different names. Ukbigboard being one of them

    • 4everUKblue
      1:33 pm December 24, 2018 Permalink

      You have no room to talk bigoldumbass, aka slater, combatmedic_98. You’re the biggest troll of all with multiple usernames.

  14. Memphis UK Cat
    5:42 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

    There are some serious haters on here. I for one have had the hangover since the duke game. I was there and wanted to crawl out the arena. This looked more like the Kentucky team we saw in the Bahamas and more excited to travel and see some games. I am not sure with Quade leaving got the team more focus or just the process. I was concern this team was going to go backwards. Cal, he is the magician who always finds a way!

  15. Headhurts
    7:17 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

    So did Cal out coach ole Roy saturday? Oops I forgot Cal just rolls the ball out there………big grin.

    • Racerr11
      8:03 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      Lol, Matt knows more than 95% of fans WOW you are way out there. Cal is the only coach I want and is one of the best out there. BBN

  16. Racerr11
    8:05 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

    Matt knows some of the modern day UK stuff but a sports guy he isn’t.

  17. BigolBlue
    8:06 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

    One game. Lets not get ahead of ourselves

    • Big0lBlue
      8:25 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      Just as you have cautious pessimism, we are allowed to have optimism. It is just one game, but the fact that you cannot enjoy it is further proof that you, slater, are a miserable person. You are only here to bring fans down, and i feel sorry for you living your life that way.

    • catsarerunnin
      8:33 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      Ourselves? Are you implying you’re an actual Cats fan? I’m sure you will enjoy unwrapping your new UL gear tomorrow morning including one emblazoned with Slater the Hater stitched in red.

    • Big0lBlue
      8:58 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      You mean you actually figured out that i am banana? Dude, is your last name Holmes? Because thats Sherlock level detective work. I/we all mock you because you deserve it. Remember, you are free to say whatever you want, you are not free from the pushback we are going to give you after you have said it.

    • BigolBlue
      8:37 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      You guys are so triggered. Banana has 0 life making names to reflect mine. I know its you. All im saying is temper expectations. We get in trouble bc ksr and others overhype this team drastically for ratings and site hit help. Remember being ranked #2 preseason??? That didnt go well. Yes it was a great win, but lets see first

    • catsarerunnin
      8:56 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      All I’m saying is you change IDs yearly to try and hide the fact you’re Slater the Hater. You’re not a UK fan regardless of what ridiculous moniker you use.

    • 4everUKblue
      1:37 pm December 24, 2018 Permalink

      banana has way more smarts than you have among all your usernames and I doubt you matter enough to him or anyone else bigoldumbass aka slater aka combatmedic_98.

  18. Aar
    8:39 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

    How about a headline and post about leadership within this team? Travis is taking the role of “guy everybody turns to”. Hagans is taking the defensive leader role. Washington owns the self-sacrificing glue guy role. Johnson is clutch time. There is a lot of leadership emerging within this version of the Cats. That’s the entire reason they are now starting to play so much better than they were on the pre-season trip that this post basically amounts to cheerleading.

    • BigolBlue
      8:48 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      That was deep aar. Im touched

    • CatsandPats
      10:35 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

      Hit the nail on the head. This team assuming their roles and leadership will only increase their ceiling as the season rolls on. This game gave us a taste of what we can expect IF our guys assume these roles for each and every game.

  19. Mathlete
    11:04 am December 24, 2018 Permalink

    Averaging 34% from 3 (102 points per 100 shots) is better than shooting 50% from 2 (100 points per 100 shots).

    Keep that and the defensive efficiency up and we’ll be in really good shape.

  20. The Original WTF Guy
    12:50 pm December 24, 2018 Permalink

    Last year we played arguably the best 20 minutes of the season in the second half vs WVU. The next game out we barely beat Vandy at home. I don’t think this team is last years team, but let’s give them a bit of time.

    • Aar
      4:02 pm December 24, 2018 Permalink

      I’m glad this team played such a good 40 minutes so early in the season. They have more games to repeat this level of play and build upon it than when they put it together for those 20 minutes at WVU last season. I really hope their next 40 minutes are at least 90% as good as their most recent 40. That should be enough to beat the dirt outta those birds!