In their third game in six days, Kentucky looked like a team coming off a Thanksgiving feast hangover in their matchup with Tennessee State on Friday night. And again, the Big Blue Nation came away frustrated and underwhelmed.
(Drew Franklin even saw a fan in the Rupp Arena concourse throw away his tickets, vowing to never come back because “this team sucks.” But that’s another story for another time.)
Against yet another team several notches below the Wildcats in overall talent and size, we saw a good bit to like and even more to be desired in the 77-62 victory.
In the “good” column, Keldon Johnson had his best game in a Kentucky uniform, finishing with a career-high 27 points on 7-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds. He was a force on both ends of the floor, locking up the opposition on the perimeter on defense and scoring at will in transition on offense. Johnson was knocking down free throws too (13-18), which is an excellent development for a guy that has struggled at the line all year.
Reid Travis also finished with 13 points on an efficient 4-4 shooting to go with nine rebounds. When the ball went to Travis in the post, he either converted on easy buckets or got fouled to rack up free throws (5-9 on the night).
Beyond those two, no Wildcat scored more than nine points, with the team shooting just 44 percent from the field as a whole. Kentucky also committed 14 turnovers compared to just eight assists, with sloppy ball movement and fumbled passes killing some positive momentum throughout. In the first half, Kentucky continued to jack up forced three-pointers and avoided forcing the ball inside against smaller competition. They figured it out in the second half, but then the defense slipped up a bit.
Down the stretch, Kentucky managed to push the the lead to 19 points, but then allowed Tennessee State to come within 11 with just 4:47 remaining. They could’ve gone for the death blow to finalize the blowout on countless occasions, but just couldn’t convert on both ends of the floor to make that happen.
Here’s the entire box score: