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RECAP: Kentucky gets its groove back, routs Tennessee 83-58


Well, that’s more like it. Kentucky gave its fans the best kind of Valentine’s Day gift tonight with a thorough 83-58 beatdown of Tennessee. It was never really close; the Cats turned in their best 40 minutes of basketball in a month, dominating the Vols from start to finish. Malik Monk led the way with 20 points and eight (!!) rebounds, followed by Derek Willis with 16 points and De’Aaron Fox with 13.

Between ball movement, three-point shooting, rebounding, and, yes, defense, there’s a lot to be happy about, so let’s break it down.

Malik Monk had eight rebounds

The most shocking stat of the night? Malik Monk — the same player who went two straight games without a board — pulled down a career-high eight rebounds tonight, equalling his total from the past five games combined. For weeks, John Calipari has lamented about his top scorer’s effort on the boards, and tonight, Monk proved that his hops on offense translate to rebounding as well.

“He did good. He did good,” Calipari said, consulting the stat sheet. “He did good. He did good. He played better, he played within himself.”

Four “he did good”s from Calipari?? You did good, Malik.

I want to write that ball movement a love song

The improved rebounding was great, the hustle was spectacular, the defense — which I’ll write about in a second — was like a cool drink on a hot summer day; however, what made me happiest tonight was the ball movement. For the first time in a month, the Cats zipped the ball around the court like a team actually playing with a plan instead of a bunch of individuals hurdling themselves at the basket. One of the most impressive sequences came in the first half, when the Cats played the best kind of hot potato to set up Dominique Hawkins for a three:

This possession was also great:

“It’s what we’ve been working on,” Cal said of the ball movement afterwards. “It’s how we need to play and we were playing that way early. We got away from it, and it makes us look like a different team.”

Yes, it does.

Derek Willis was on fire

At one point in the first half, it seemed like Derek Willis couldn’t miss. The senior finished with 16 points, including four threes, and if you ask Rick Barnes, his play was a big of what went right for the Cats tonight.

“Our key was not to let their four shoot the ball, make no shots,” Barnes said of Willis, who had four points in Kentucky’s loss in Knoxville last month. “But one thing we did, you go back to our game in Knoxville, he and Gabriel were non-factors. We talked about it all week. That’s what we can’t allow happen and we let it happen. Give them credit. I think John has a great pulse on his team. You can tell that he’s tried to get those guys going because it does make them a different team.”

“Derek Willis was ridiculous and he spaced the court,” Cal said. “I thought Derek played really confident today.”

Clearly, Willis heard Cal’s “play with confidence or you’ll sit” ultimatum from yesterday’s press conference. If Kentucky can consistently get production from either Derek or Wenyen at the four, they’ll be fine.

Defense! There was defense!

Kentucky held Tennessee to a season-low 58 points, the Cats’ second straight game holding an opponent to 60 or under. Defense has been an obvious focus of the reboot, and tonight, it showed. Tennessee was only 18-53 for 35% tonight, including a paltry 19% from three. The Vols committed 13 turnovers to only 7 assists, a stat that looks particularly awful when you compare it to the Cats’ 17 assists and 7 turnovers, their best assist-to-turnover ratio in what feels like forever.

“I thought our defense was as good as it’s been since the beginning of the year,” Cal said. “I thought we crowded the lane a little bit, I thought we helped, we rotated. I was really happy about the rebounds.”

As he should be. Kentucky outrebounded Tennessee 43-35 tonight. Bam Adebayo had 12 boards, his first double-digit rebounding effort since the UCLA game back in early December. Shoutout to Dominique Hawkins, who not only had 10 points and four rebounds, but played with enough energy and hustle that Cal played him six minutes longer than Isaiah Briscoe.

De’Aaron Fox might have to keep the man bun


Fox had some in the BBN clutching at their pearls before the game when he came out of the locker room sporting a man bun (or, as we dubbed it on the live blog, a foxtail). Like Willie Cauley-Stein before him, Fox played well enough that not only are people okay with the man bun, they want him to keep it as to not mess with the mojo. After a rough month which included an ankle injury and an illness, Fox finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and 0 turnovers before fouling out.

“I thought De’Aaron Fox was as good as he’s been in two months,” Calipari said on his radio show.

During his interview with Mike Pratt, Fox said his phone was blowing up with texts from friends telling him to keep his hairstyle, but that his mother wasn’t a big fan. Fox, who clearly has learned something about the BBN, left the final decision to the crowd at Rupp, who cheered for him to keep the foxtail.

Sorry, mamma. Mojo comes first.

So, are we back?

A 25-point win sure feels good, but before you start trolling fans of other teams about the Cats being back, let’s pump the brakes just a bit. As Rick Barnes put it, his team was “gosh awful” tonight, but seeing Kentucky keep their foot on the gas throughout for a solid beatdown was definitely promising.

“It was good,” Cal said of the win. “[Tennessee] did whatever they wanted last time. I think you see us different defensively. I think you see us different in transition defense. I think you see the difference offensively. Some of the rebooting you’re seeing. And that’s part of the what we did.”

Tonight, you saw Kentucky get back to a lot of things they do best. In addition to sharing the ball, the Cats burned the Vols in transition, with 18 fast break points to Tennessee’s zero. Cal attributed a lot of Kentucky’s reboot to sharper focus in practice, with Tony Barbee handling the defense and Kenny Payne the offense. Regardless of the reason, one thing is for certain: for the first time in a month, Kentucky basketball was fun to watch.

“Today was — it’s kind of growing up,” Cal said. “It’s being a man. It’s all the stuff that we got to teach. But this is only the beginning of what we started 10 days ago.”

Keep it up.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

50 Comments for RECAP: Kentucky gets its groove back, routs Tennessee 83-58

  1. runningunnin.454
    10:39 pm February 14, 2017 Permalink

    The ball movement was exceptional; and for once, with a lead, we had effective clock management….taking the shot clock under ten, and still getting a good shot.

  2. maximumscott
    10:58 pm February 14, 2017 Permalink

    All starts with ball movement. The players are starting to trust what the coaches are selling.

  3. runningunnin.454
    11:00 pm February 14, 2017 Permalink

    I think the much ballyhooed reboot was just a boot….up the backside.

  4. AGSlater
    11:14 pm February 14, 2017 Permalink

    Im turning positive….Nice win cats. Love it. Lets keep on winning. Good effort all around!

    • runningunnin.454
      11:26 pm February 14, 2017 Permalink

      You’re on a roll,
      “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”.

    • AGSlater
      11:37 pm February 14, 2017 Permalink

      I am going to try. Cant promise anything

    • THE William Hill
      12:56 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      That’s called “bandwagon”, aka the worst and/or most annoying people on the planet.

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      8:01 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      As someone who is from a very pessimistic family let me tell you, that isn’t bandwagon…they just see things in a negative way. A bandwagon fan stops caring about one team and cares about another….pessimistic people care a ton but don’t know how to express it in a positive way.

  5. Joe Dan Gorman
    11:19 pm February 14, 2017 Permalink

    I’m hoping we’re not locked into Fox’s “Hair-Don’t”

    Looked like an ugly chick plating bball… that was really good….and fast as hell.

    • runningunnin.454
      11:37 pm February 14, 2017 Permalink

      You didn’t notice UT players staring at his hair…..
      it was right before they were reading his name on the back of his jersey.

    • CATandMONKEY
      12:26 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      The great thing about listening on the radio ( aside from Tom and Mike) is that shite like hairstyles and uniforms don’t matter much…unless Pratt or Leach decides to notice.
      I will take Fox with any ‘doo if he plays like he did tonight.

    • RealCatsFan
      7:03 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Well, as much as I hated him when he was at Florida, Fox’s new ‘do reminds me of the one Joakim Noah had. As long as De’Aaron plays like Noah, I’m ok with it.

    • Mathlete
      8:39 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Fox can style his hair to look like Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element for all I care. Only thing that matters is that he plays full throttle

    • CATandMONKEY
      8:53 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Mathlete FTW. THAT would be epic.

  6. BNClay
    12:29 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    Me too Joe Dan. I loved the spiked hair, this got to go. Unless he is gonna play for Matthew Mitchell… in that case no one will even notice.

    • Catsby80
      7:59 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      who cares what his hairstyle is? if he’s an effective point guard and plays well, why do you even care?

  7. blueballs80
    1:06 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    This team plays well at home. On the road is where we struggle. If this team plays like this on the road, then we will be fine. As of now i am cautiously optimistic.

    • TBW3011
      5:41 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Optimistic as well. Don’t agree with the first 2 sentences at all though. We had played terrible at home and on the road for a month straight basically.

    • maximumscott
      7:07 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Not true. We lost 2 at home and UGA took us to OT.

    • Mathlete
      8:41 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      The good news is there’s rarely a road game environment in the tournament. BBN will show up wherever we’re playing and at least make it a neutral court

  8. BlueGrassBrass
    2:34 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    Boogie, The Brow, Noel, The Big Kat will NOT be walking through the door. Enjoy the season. Expect mediocre basketball from this team. They lack the post game skills that is needed to win a championship. The guards lack the killer instinct to take this team to where it needs to be without a post presence.

    • StuckinLville
      5:00 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      That was mediocre basketball to you? Early in the season this team was anything but mediocre. They can get back on track and wow us just like the 2014 team. Except this team isn’t in double digit losses. Sounds like you just need to find another team to support.

    • Mathlete
      8:42 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Guard play, defense, and rebounding collectively win championships. Two of those are directly correlated with effort level, and are well within our control. Playing like that, we’ll be fine in March.

    • UK Fan In Nashville
      10:44 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      I don’t think Daniel Ochefu(Villanova’s big man last year) is any better than Bam Adebayo. So your theory about post presence seems weak to me.

  9. StuckinLville
    4:58 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    It’s not a man bun, it’s a man puff lol

  10. Wildcat Sheli
    6:47 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    When I read that Cal watched tape to analyze how they kept losing leads, I began to feel good. I think he’s identified what was happening and has corrected it and knows what to watch out for.

    They looked happy, and boy were they fun to watch! Great to avenge the loss in such dominating fashion.

  11. RealCatsFan
    6:57 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    I know we have a tough road game at UGA, so don’t want to get ahead of myself, but can we bring the same hustle on defense and offensive motion when UF comes to town? I would love to see us feasting on some KFG (Kentucky Fried Gator) in a few weeks.

  12. maximumscott
    7:04 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    The only thing more sickening than UK playing bad ball is the bandwagon fan. Wow. Now they are winning soneverybody hopes back on board! I kept saying this team was fine. Did notice Rupp? An unhealthy seating chart made me think the same thing about those missing. I bet next home home game will be sold out if they keep performing like this! Dont tell me it was competition level and tht people Didnt want to watch UT. We have sold out playing wxhibition games that dont matter… some fans have checked out and are on their way back. Disgusting!

    • RealCatsFan
      7:54 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Reported attendance for the game last night was over 24k. I don’t get what you are saying.

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      8:16 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Can’t look at the seats and get an idea of how many people are there. The ice cream lines are very, very long.

    • KayutsBy90
      10:16 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      RealCatsFan, official attendance numbers are extremely misleading. They are based on tickets sold, not actual clicks on the turnstile. Also, fun fact, official attendance also factors in everyone in the building such as media, refs, players, event staff and team staff.

      Also, I was there last night. A decent amount of lower arena was vacant especially for a UT game. The atmosphere in general was pretty lackluster. Felt like I was watching it in a bar because the only time the crowd made any noise was when we scored.

  13. henderblue
    7:07 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    Willis was great. He needs to get the majority of the minutes right now. I love you Wenyen..but put on 15 pounds of muscle and come back next and be a strong first round pick

  14. Blue_Cat75
    7:36 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    Is it me or does this team flow better with Hawkins? Seems like the “individuals hurdling themselves at the basket” should get 6 less minutes than him every game.

    • Catsby80
      8:02 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      just to be clear, are you suggesting hawkins get more minutes than briscoe?

    • Blue_Cat75
      8:32 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      A senior leader who plays excellent defense, runs the offense efficiently and can actually hit 3’s to spread the opponents defense……yes. What’s Briscoe do besides drive the ball and try to make a layup around 3 defenders, miss, then cry that he didn’t get fouled? Just my opinion. I’m sure you don’t agree, but that’s the joy of opinions.

    • CATandMONKEY
      8:41 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      What is Briscoe’s 3 pt percentage again? Not great but not terribly shabby if I recall.

    • CATandMONKEY
      8:43 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      To be fair Dom deserves some more minutes. He is a great asset for this team. Briscoe has a triple double and several double doubles. Your opinion is fine but it must be viewed in light of facts.

    • Laker Cat 18
      9:14 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      The result is a direct reflection of Briscoe’s play. When he turns the ball over 4 times per game like he’s done the past 5 games before Tennessee last night the team doesn’t respond. He had 6 assists and 1 TO last night. Much improved by Briscoe and it correlated. He was my MVP last night. He don’t have to hit 3’s but he does need to do his job and that’s to be efficient in dishing the rock.

  15. rickshelton
    7:47 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    Good article, Tyler. Passing was beautiful. Working the clock in second half was beautiful. Defense and rebounding was better. Would still like to see Bam get the ball more without the double-team. Wish other teams would cooperate!

  16. Patjoco
    8:37 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    I think the refs did a much better job letting the players play a little more without a whistle every other possession slowing the game down. Once the refs allow them to get in a rhythm they start to get more comfortable and play some good basketball! Good job refs!

    • RealCatsFan
      9:17 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Agree. And amazingly enough, Doug Shows was one of them!

  17. chemcat
    9:38 am February 15, 2017 Permalink

    Mrs. Tyler Thompson,

    Fox didn’t foul out with 8 minutes left.

  18. Al B. Frank
    4:07 pm February 15, 2017 Permalink

    What is this “Your comment is awaiting moderation” stuff?

  19. Luether
    4:11 pm February 15, 2017 Permalink

    So, are we back? My sources say we need to wait until AFTER the GA game on Saturday…

    • UK Big Board Update
      4:14 pm February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Quit saying “we”, retard. Everyone knows you are a troll.

    • UK Big Board Update
      4:24 pm February 15, 2017 Permalink

      Luether is in a bad mood after UK’s win last night.

      He’s gotta do something to feel better about himself – troll KSR.

      HE SO MAD 😉