Kentucky will need to play much better tonight than it did Tuesday night — or the Cats will lose again. Southern Illinois is a very experienced team that finished second behind Loyola, a Final Four team, in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. The Salukis return five of the top six scorers, including all five starters, and they will not be intimidated by the youth on Kentucky’s roster.
Here are (some of) the keys to the game for the Cats:
Find a point guard.
As of right now, it’s anyone’s job to win. Kentucky did not have a point guard in the Duke game, so someone, anyone, will need to step up and take command of the offense tonight. They don’t have to be John Wall or Brandon Knight or De’Aaron Fox or Tyler Ulis or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but they have to be able to play the position. Nobody could three days ago.
Don’t take stupid shots.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the Duke game — and there were many — was the shot selection. I remember Quade Green and Tyler Herro jacking up some unexplainable contested jumpers Tuesday night and that will need to stop.
Coach Cal said yesterday, “We took bad shots. Quick, contested. Guys were acting like it was high school. Then we got down, ‘I’m gonna get mine now.’ What? You don’t play that way at Kentucky. You tried to get yours and now we’re down 30. Why’d you do that?”
Show some effort.
Duke’s bench players were winning 50/50 balls and that Jack White character finished with six offensive rebounds in the game. Jack White had only 10 offensive rebounds in 28 games last season. You know how he got six against Kentucky? Because Kentucky sat back and watched him get them.
Hustle was a big part of practice yesterday:
It’s one thing of teams are making shots, but we won’t be beat to 50-50 balls or be outworked again. pic.twitter.com/eT5DUHPeWM
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 8, 2018
I still can’t believe Jack White got six offensive rebounds.
The veterans need to show up.
Paging Quade Green and Nick Richards. You there? Kentucky finally has some returning players and they did more harm than good in the first game of the season. PJ Washington was OK, but even he disappeared and he is supposed to be an All-SEC player.
Southern Illinois is very experienced; Kentucky should use its experience too.
Play loose and play for each other.
The team was wound way too tight against Duke. Most of the players looked like they’d rather be anywhere else in the world than in that game. That needs to change and I expect it will.
They also need to do some brother keeping. Lord knows Cal has been in their ear about it all week. He told the media, “We were out there, instead of playing for each other, they were trying to get theirs. I had one guy call me and say, ‘It looked like your guys had their hair on fire.’”
The game tips off at 7 p.m.