Your University of Kentucky Wildcats wrapped up preseason play with a win over our friends from Kentucky State, 83-51, in front of 19,588 fans in Rupp Arena. You can find loads of coverage of the game all over this here website, but right now we’d like to take a moment to share the Best and Worst Of the game from the three KSR employees who were lucky enough to cover an exhibition game on a Friday night.
Best: Kahlil Whitney’s comeback performance
On Sunday evening, Kentucky freshman wing Kahlil Whitney laid an egg across the board in the team’s first exhibition matchup against Georgetown College. Finishing with zero points (0-5 shooting), zero rebounds, and zero assists, the 6-foot-7 forward failed to get anything going and looked incredibly uncomfortable in the process.
Tonight, however, Whitney turned things around in the best way possible, finishing with a game-high 15 points (7-13 shooting), five rebounds, three assists, and three blocked shoots.
More importantly, the confidence was there on both ends of the floor, taking shots on the perimeter without hesitation and playing with urgency on the defensive end of the floor.
Now if he can take some of those jumpers without his foot on the 3-point line (CURSE THE LONG TWOS), the Cats will be golden.
– Jack Pilgrim
Worst: EJ Montgomery struggles… again.
While a final statline of eight points (4-6 shooting), four rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 25 minutes isn’t horrendous – it’s actually fairly solid – it’s no secret sophomore forward EJ Montgomery did not have his best outing on Friday evening.
With Nick Richards out with a sprained left ankle, Montgomery had a clear opportunity to have the ball in his hands and shine as the team’s premiere big man. Instead, the 6-foot-10 forward got pushed around in the paint, struggled to create space, and seemed a step behind on defense.
At one point in the second half, John Calipari pulled him from the game and immediately ripped into him, with associate head coach Kenny Payne also following suit.
For a player with first-round buzz during NBA Draft workouts this offseason, Montgomery hasn’t lived up to the hype through one intrasquad scrimmage and two exhibition matchups.
We’ll see how he performs under the lights on Tuesday to open the regular season.
– Jack Pilgrim
Best: KSR caller J.T. (Heyyyyyy) sat courtside.
My favorite part of Friday night’s exhibition is completely unrelated to what happened on the basketball court. One of our all-time favorite radio show callers, J.T., got to sit courtside to watch his favorite college basketball team host his alma mater, Kentucky State University.
If you’re a long time listener, you know all about J.T. and you’re probably just as happy as I am to see his wish was granted with good seats to the game. He better call us on Monday to tell us all about it.
— Drew Franklin
Worst: This drunk fan.
Also completely unrelated to basketball: according to Kyle Tucker, one fan in the building got a little too wasted before the game (or on the booze he smuggled in). Poor guy didn’t even get to see the second half.
Just shy of 8 p.m., a fan so drunk that police were escorting him out of Rupp Arena in a wheelchair … started projectile vomiting as they hustled him through the concourse. Watch your step on the way to the concession stand upstairs, press-row side.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) November 2, 2019
I did not witness this, thankfully, but I found it to be very uncomfortable and disgusting from afar.
Best: Fastbreak points
The much-hyped three-guard lineup might have already found its strength. Kentucky held a sizable advantage in fastbreak points, leading that category 37-6. 45 percent of the Wildcats points on the night came in transition and we have the backcourt of Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Johnny Juazng to thank for that. Those four combined for all 10 of Kentucky’s steals, with Maxey, Hagans, and Juzang all recording three each.
Granted, the competition was Kentucky State, and there were times were the KSU ball handlers looked more like cornerbacks instead of point guards. However, we can’t discount how quick the hands of these guards are. They are always active and disruptive, looking for an opportunity to sprint down the other end of the court. Kentucky was able to convert 30 points on 22 KSU turnovers.
If the frontcourt can’t get things rolling in the half-court offense as they did tonight, easy points will be vital in keeping the opponent from breaking out to momentum controlling runs.
– Zack Geoghegan
Worst: Three-point shooting
“We have shooters, not makers.”
Not only is that one of John Calipari’s classic cliches, but it was also incredibly true on Friday night. The ‘Cats shot only 6-22 from deep. Outside of Juzang (3-5 from deep) and Quickley (2-5), no other Kentucky player knocked down more than one three. Hagans and Maxey both went 0-3 while Whitney shot 0-2 (TAKE ONE STEP BACK, KAHLIL). Sestina did shoot 1-2, but a 27.3 percent clip from three for the team is not going to cut it against the likes of Michigan State.
Juzang is clearly the best shooter on the team and I don’t think we’ll have to worry about him going cold from deep. Likewise with Sestina. However, if Kentucky does run with guard-dominant lineups, they are going to have to make the long ball. Despite the three-point line being slightly pushed back this season, it’s still the most valuable shot in the game and Kentucky has plenty of confident guys looking to pull the trigger.
We need these shooters to turn into makers.