What a night for Keldon Johnson. After a relatively-slow start, the freshman came alive after halftime, finishing with a career-high 27 points.
Johnson entered the locker room at the half with just seven points and two rebounds, despite playing 15 of the first 20 minutes. But something changed after his trip to the locker room, and he came out as a totally different player – the player Kentucky needs him to be.
The strongest parts of his play came under the rim, especially off of a few smooth drives directly to the basket. He made tough layups and plenty of pretty jumpers. Although he was not credited with any assists, Johnson dished out a few excellent passes, including one to Tyler Herro for a three-pointer and another to Immanuel Quickley for the same result. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
It was a positive night for Keldon Johnson, but Coach John Calipari didn’t seem 100 percent satisfied.
“He was seeing gaps and he was seeing opportunities to go at the basket and he was strong at the rim,” Calipari said. “He did a pretty good job.”
Of course, Johnson’s night was far from perfect. There were mistakes, including a few lapses on defense.
“They played zone and again, we haven’t played against zone that much and I couldn’t get our guys to post the ball,” Cal said. “There was one where Keldon, out of the timeout, we’re throwing it to you and you’re posting it. And he moved up and I had to yell to him to move down where he could catch it and post it.”
Despite his defensive mistakes, Johnson’s strong offensive play was absolutely necessary for the Cats, and he played a critical role in tonight’s win. He was the team’s leading scorer by far – Reid Travis came in second place with 13 points, a whopping 14-point difference. In order to win big games, other guys will have to step up and make shots to relieve some of the pressure from Johnson – plus, the deficit between the first and second-highest point totals should never be that large.
But, on a night like tonight, 27 points from Keldon Johnson will get the job done.