If you told me Kentucky would be able to win an NCAA Tournament game without making a three, I wouldn’t believe it, but somehow it happened. Kentucky outlasted a pesky Davidson squad 78-73 despite going 0-6 from the outside, ending their streak of 1,047 consecutive games with a three-point basket. They’ll advance to play the winner of Arizona and Buffalo on Saturday.
This was a hard game for me — to the point I may have a white streak in my hair tomorrow — but let’s break it down before we prepare for a possible matchup with DeAndre Ayton and Arizona.
The streak is dead
Many are lamenting the death of Kentucky’s 30-year three-point streak after the Cats went 0-6 from beyond the arc tonight, but if it means they live to see another day in the NCAA Tournament, I’m fine with it. The Cats are far from sharp-shooters from the outside this year, but tonight’s performance was especially chilly. Davidson outscored Kentucky 33-0 from three tonight, an eye-opening stat that I’m choosing to find comforting instead of distressing.
“We’re not a team that relies on threes,” John Calipari said. “I wouldn’t like to go 0-6, but we’d like to make five, six, seven, maybe eight 3s. There’s other teams that need to make 12, 13, 14 to win; we’re just not one of them.”
Based on postgame remarks, most of the players didn’t even realize the streak existed, which will probably infuriate a good portion of the fan base but should put everything into perspective. It’s only a matter of time before the threes (or at least one three) starts falling, right?
Thank goodness for Kevin Knox
Knox finished with a game-high 25 points, including 9-11 free throws, to seal Kentucky’s win. We’ve always said that Kentucky goes as Knox goes, and thank goodness he was engaged tonight. While Knox was 0-3 from three, he did make the extra effort we’ve been looking for inside, which helped him get to the free throw line.
How about Shai?
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the first to admit he wasn’t perfect tonight, taking blame for being too selfish in the second half, but how can you not applaud his 19-point, 8-rebound, 7-assist effort? As has been the case for the last few months, when the team faltered, Shai put them on his back. With very little from Quade Green (4 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 2 turnovers), Shai came through in the end.
“He plays to win and he plays to make plays,” Cal said. “I like what he did at the end of the game. He took over, he made free throws.”
“Personally, I don’t think I played too well today,” Shai said. “Yeah, I’ve just been trying to do what I worked on and do what Coach is asking me, what this team needs me to do. Today I didn’t do too well. My shots weren’t falling. I got a little selfishness. I’m going to learn from it and get better for the next game and try to do better next time.”
Oh, Shai, you’re the least of our worries right now.
It’s a shame PJ Washington got into foul trouble
It became clear ten minutes in that Kentucky’s x-factor was PJ Washington, which is why it wasn’t surprising that when PJ got into foul trouble, Kentucky struggled. PJ finished with 11 points (5-8), 3 rebounds, and two awesome stank faces. This was my favorite:
PJ STANK FACE ENGAGED pic.twitter.com/RPWnPvrsWy
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) March 15, 2018
That’s our thing now, isn’t it?
Shoutout to Hamidou Diallo and Sacha Killeya-Jones
Diallo and Killeya-Jones picked up where they left off in the SEC Tournament, continuing to fill the void left by Jarred Vanderbilt. Both had eight points, with Diallo turning in three blocks and Killeya-Jones six rebounds. Sacha’s dunk in the first half was so good this band member broke the internet:
We are all Band Guy after that Sacha dunk! pic.twitter.com/yid8LR5Y54
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) March 16, 2018
Was fatigue an issue?
It sure looked like Kentucky was a step slow tonight, and while Calipari will jump on the chance to point out Kentucky had a short turnaround from the SEC Tournament, so did Davidson. Regardless, there’s no denying the Cats looked lethargic, which Cal chalked up to inexperience and anxiety.
“We were kind of running in cement and we weren’t focusing on the things we were doing in the first half,” Cal told Tom Leach. “I think they thought they were just going to win the game.”
Shoutout to Davidson
As the newly sprouting gray hairs on my head will attest, Bob McKillop and Davidson had one hell of a game plan tonight and didn’t give up until the very last second. While I’m very happy Kentucky advances, I’m prouder than ever to be a Davidson alum. Shoutout to my black and red Wildcats for a gutsy effort.
Thanks to Kelenna Azubuike, an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, my dream of seeing Steph Curry in a Kentucky jersey will also come true:
So if Kentucky wins this game vs Davidson, @StephenCurry30 has to wear my Azubuike Kentucky jersey to a shootaround or pregame workout. Davidson wins and I have to wear his Davidson jersey for a whole Pregame and Postgame show! Lets work Kentucky!! #BBN
— Kelenna Azubuike (@KAzubuike7) March 16, 2018
Next up: Arizona?
If so, Kentucky better find their outside shot before Saturday.