1. Beast Mode
Kentucky needed P.J. Washington to be a dog. He did everything Kentucky needed and more.
Washington scored a career-high 22 points with powerful finishes at the rim and a soft touch at the free throw line. The 60 percent free throw shooter hit 10-of-14 shots from the charity stripe. Washington added 6 rebounds, 2 assists and a career-high 3 steals.
When Kentucky needed P.J. to dominate down the stretch, he did just that.
2. Knox Rediscovered his Shot
The Kentucky forward put his three-point struggles in the past by knocking down all four of his long-range attempts against Mississippi State. Knox was happy to see his hard work rewarded.
“It was good. I needed this game,” Knox said. “The last couple days I’ve really been working on my jump shot, just getting extra shots up before practice and after practice. Basically, just getting around 500 shots before and after. It paid off and it was good to see the ball go through the rim.”
3. Passing is a Problem
There were sloppy skip passes, passes to no one and 100 mph passes thrown from two feet away. When Kentucky struggled, it’s because the players simply could not connect. The Cats finished with 11 turnovers, which turned into 18 Mississippi State points. Kentucky has averaged 16 turnovers in its five losses. If they’re giving Miss. State the ball 11 times, I hate to imagine how many times Press Virginia will take the ball away this Saturday.
4. Vanderbilt Couldn’t Buy a Bucket
Vanderbilt has never looked more comfortable on a Kentucky basketball court, but he could not take advantage of the opportunity. He simply could not get the ball in the bucket. In his first two offensive possessions, three shot attempts within five feet did not even hit the rim. Vanderbilt missed his first six shots, all within six feet, before he finally tipped one through the rim.
Is there a reason to worry? Nope. Shooters miss shots, even if they’re layups. Now he knows how to deal with a bad offensive day, and he found a way to remove the lid from his bucket before the end of the game.
5. Diallo is Figuring it Out
Hamidou Diallo’s Miss. State stat line looked a lot like it has over the last two weeks, but he looked much different on the floor. When his shots did not fall, he did not force bad ones or let it take him out of the game.
Diallo contributed in other ways. He grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds, ran the floor in transition and outside of consecutive turnovers, he took care of the ball. Most importantly, Diallo’s emotions remained in check.
6. No Bigs, No Problem
John Calipari played most of the game without a true post. Nick Richards had zero points and one rebound in just 11 minutes of action. Sacha Killeya-Jones played ten minutes and had only three rebounds and two points in that time. If the bigs aren’t producing, John Calipari now has the luxury to play small with Washington, Vanderbilt, Gabriel and Knox.
7. Shai with the Sauce
Just filthy, absolutely filthy.
8. Kentucky Figured Out How to Finish
When Kentucky won close games early in SEC play, it was only because the Cats were able to cling to the lead long enough to escape with a win . They looked lost at times and struggled to execute down the stretch. In an ugly game against Miss. State, Kentucky did not resort to bad habits in the final four minutes.
The Cats remained poised. The leaders who needed to make plays — Knox, Washington and Gilgeous-Alexander — did exactly what they needed to do to close the door on Mississippi State. Kentucky’s imperfect game had a perfect finish.