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T.J.’s TAKES: Another up-and-down game for the Cats

The more things change the more they stay the same. Kentucky fixed it’s perimeter defense, but it was an overall frustrating defensive performance as Tennessee State scored with ease inside. Several important players for the Cats played great, but other players remained inconsistent and left us shaking our heads at times.

It wasn’t the 40-minute performance we were hoping for, but it was still a win. Here are five takeaways from UK’s 77-62 win over Tennessee State.

1. The win:

Like I said, it wasn’t the 40-minute performance we were looking for but I do think UK improved in some areas. The Cats perimeter defense was much better, but UK struggled guarding off the dribble. Some of UK’s most important players looked really good tonight, but some of the usual suspects were inconsistent. It was somewhat the norm for how Kentucky has played this month. Plenty of good but also a lot of frustrating mistakes.

I liked that Tennessee State tried to challenge Kentucky in some different ways. The last few teams have been three-point heavy but the Tigers weren’t afraid to get physical with UK and it was more similar to how an SEC game may look for Kentucky in a couple months. Obviously Tennessee State isn’t SEC caliber, but the the style of play was more comparable than previous games.

2. Keldon Johnson:

He’s the type of player that could get hot in March and lead UK to a Final Four or a title. His energy is almost unmatched across the country and once he becomes a little more efficient he will be one of the most dangerous players in college basketball. 27 points and seven rebounds for Johnson.

I loved how Kentucky put him on the elbow and in the paint tonight. UK will see plenty of zone this season and he may be the zone buster. He’s good enough to shoot from the elbow, but if he gets a little space he’s liable to dunk on everyone waiting for him on the block. At some point he’s going to need to become a better passer, but I’m sure that will develop in time.

Also, get used to him living at the free throw line. 13-18 was good tonight, but not perfect and I’m sure Calipari will let him know that.

3. Reid Travis:

Could you imagine this team without Travis? Not a fun thought. He is the heart and soul of this team and when I say Johnson’s energy is nearly unmatched across the country, Travis is probably a harder worker. Ignore the buttslapping, but you just don’t see too many players play basketball with that heart, intensity and passion. I apologize for the cliches, but you hope this kinda play becomes contagious to the other guys. He’s not the most talented guy, but the way he operates doesn’t allow Calipari to leave him on the bench. Enjoy watching him play for one year. UK fans have been asking for a player like Travis for years.

And if you don’t appreciate him now, wait until Kentucky plays Tennessee and other physical teams. You’ll appreciate him then.

4. Defense:

Folks, Kentucky just isn’t a great defensive team right now and each game I become more concerned this may be the reality. Yes, they’ll probably get better, but they’re a long way off. UK was drastically better on perimeter defense tonight, but Tennessee State shouldn’t score 32 points in the paint against UK. And teams like Winthrop and VMI shouldn’t roast Kentucky from the perimeter.

It’s a mess all around and I certainly don’t have the answers. I thought Ashton Hagans may be UK’s most valuable defensive player and he’s been underwhelming. Keldon Johnson was a great high school defender and that hasn’t translated just yet. Obviously it’s still very early, but UK isn’t playing great teams. For Kentucky to be a legitimate top 10 team we need to see better defense.

5. Moving forward:

The Cats will get plenty of practice time before Wednesday’s game against Monmouth, who hasn’t won a game this season. It should be another easy win for the Cats, but we’ve been saying that the least few games.

There are three things we have to see from UK because the schedule is going to toughen up sooner than later:

  • Defense: I mentioned it above but UK has struggled all season defending the perimeter and the one night they improve they give up a plethora of points inside and get beaten off the dribble.
  • Sloppiness: 14 turnovers tonight isn’t criminal, but nearly 30 percent of the Tigers’ points came off UK turnovers. Turnovers are going to happen, but you can’t allow it to lead to easy points for the opponents.
  • Bad stretches: Sadly this is becoming the norm for Calipari teams for the first few months of a season. It’s been every season since the 2015 campaign. I think it comes down to coaching. We see these guys have stretches when they’re unstoppable, but then we see them take their foot off the gas and allow teams to go on big runs. UK should be able to overpower every team until the UNC game in month, but against quality opponents it could take the Cats out of a game or evaporate a big lead just like that.

Enjoy Thanksgiving weekend and head on out to Cardinal Stadium tomorrow to watch the Cats beatdown the Cards.

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Article written by TJ Walker

36 Comments for T.J.’s TAKES: Another up-and-down game for the Cats



  1. michaelb
    9:35 pm November 23, 2018 Permalink

    All you people that say it’s just November aren’t realizing the mistakes we make and the Ole defense & walking 4 times per game is stuff you can’t do even in middle school ball, f*** November . Basic fundamentals HAVE to be installed before November .



    • BigolBlue
      12:15 pm November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Like the smart guys say ” We’ll be ok. Cals got this”



  2. CoachCat
    9:38 pm November 23, 2018 Permalink

    Agreed. We’re just not going to be a powerhouse this year.



    • DelrayCat
      10:23 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      You know not what you are talking about my friend. This team has the talent…just alot of new faces to get used to college basketball. Once they do…they got as good a shot as anyone. Mainly because they make free throws and can shoot the 3…two of our traditional Achilles heels.



  3. UKPROF
    9:44 pm November 23, 2018 Permalink

    No worries. As long as we don’t have to play any team ranked in the top 50, we’re going to be just fine. We play WHO? How many? Uh oh.



  4. Eazy19035597
    9:46 pm November 23, 2018 Permalink

    One game the defense will click, I just know. Let’s just hope it happens before UNC



    • Aar
      7:45 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Agreed. We just need more opponents who play outside in, inside out and pick-and-roll. Single dimension opponents expose a single defensive weakness and help build that skill. As usual, Cal scheduled opponents in the order required to build the defensive skillset he wants in the order he deems most important



  5. UKfaninTX
    10:06 pm November 23, 2018 Permalink

    LOL @ at all the doom and gloom “fans.” Ya take it one game at a time. These kids will be just fine. Yes, it’s frustrating. Even the 2015 team had its issues.



    • BigolBlue
      12:17 pm November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Omfg. Some of you fans are seriously getting payed by Cal or just under his spell. This team is not ok. How can you compare anything from 2015 to this team?



    • catsarerunnin
      1:26 pm November 24, 2018 Permalink

      No actually we are fans. Not delusional bang wagon “fans” who can’t be satisfied regardless of who the coach or players are and is never happy even when the Cats win. A 15 point win should have been 30. You’re the kind of “fan” who gives all fans a bad name.



  6. Aar
    10:13 pm November 23, 2018 Permalink

    The defense is a work in progress. Finally, they guarded the three well enough to get the opponent to drive The ball. This game gives them tape to use to figure out rotations when that happens. They’ll be better next time out.

    Monmouth doesn’t look like much of a test but UNCG has the size, athleticism, shooting and coaching to start elevating the competition. Gonna have to guard the perimeter, dribble drive and a little bit of pick and roll in that one.



  7. bigbluebanana
    10:43 pm November 23, 2018 Permalink

    Go to any other fan site for traditional basketball powerhouses…ANY. Read the comments from fans. After games against inferior opponents, the fans will talk mostly about how proud they are of their team pulling out a victory against a team that played their best game of the year. They may be a little frustrated, but they’ll be happy their guys pulled it out, even if it’s by 3 points over a division 2 team. Not here, not with UK. Our fans are so damned entitled. And for what? Tradition? Okay, no one has won more championships than Cal at UK in 60 flipping years. Literally no one has done it better than he is doing right now, and you folks still just act like we should be 40-0 and winning every game by 60. Y’all (and you know who you are) are a cancer to this team, you’re likely a cancer to those around you too. Mad because we only have 1 ship since 2012? Why, before Cal we waited twice that long. Tubby got 1, Pitino only got 1, Hall only got 1. That’s 3, 3 in 40 years. 40 YEARS!!!!!! And y’all wanna b!tch cause we only have 1 since Cal got here even though he puts us in contention every single year except 1? You’re not fans, you’re angry little men who likely are just mad because the world is changing around you and you can’t control all you used to. Get over yourselves. You are exactly the reason everyone hates UK fans.



    • versaillescorey
      10:49 pm November 23, 2018 Permalink

      Preach it!!! We are blessed beyond belief with this team/coach. We will be just fine… and that T.j Walker fool who so damn down on our D will get a big shot in the mouth when we click. Stay positive Walker



    • runningunnin.454
      7:48 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      So, what did Walker say that’s untrue?

    • Thanks for asking a sensible question RG.

      Bigblue, I don’t agree with all your points, but you are absolutely right about something I have made a similar point about. I have often pointed out that in the 80 or so years since Rupp became coach (about 88 now), we have averaged basically 1 championship per 10 years. It’s actually a fraction below that now of course, but that stat shows the nature of a 1 and done format. The John Wooden run will never happen again, plus, we don’t have a bag man like Sam Gilbert

    • So it’s 1 every 11 years now. If we were to win it in the next couple years we’re back to about 1 every 10 years.



    • CatsfaninFL
      11:54 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      I’ve been feeling this way more and more. I live out of state so my only interaction seems to be on here. Awful representation. We are in contention pretty much every year by march. We were beginning for that a decade ago.



    • CatsfaninFL
      11:55 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Begging*



    • BigolBlue
      12:18 pm November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Good for you banana boy. Any go to any. Tennessee state. Struggled. This team is a bubble team. Face it.



    • bigbluebanana
      2:16 pm November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Nice counter argument blue, you sure are smart.



  8. ky yaya
    1:48 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

    I would like to see Travis play more like36 minutes. He is the center of this thing.



    • DelrayCat
      10:20 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Yeah…but he has reached his peak..and you know what you will get with him. The key is elevating all the other guys, especially Nick and EJ. Cal will play Travis more than anyone come tourney time…but knows he can essentially save him for later to bring the others along quicker.



  9. Luether
    2:45 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

    Poor defense and FT shooting were disappointing…



  10. Danny44324
    5:05 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

    We have a bunch of know it all’s on this thread. Including the click bait writer. In Cal I Trust.



    • runningunnin.454
      7:51 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Again, elaborate on the writer’s false statements.



    • TJ Walker
      8:20 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      My article is my opinion on the game. Says it in the title. I’m not sure if you know what clickbait is.



    • CATandMONKEY
      8:36 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Sorry man, this was opinion but it was fairly objective in its points.

      The fact that RG454 is apparently in agreement with TJ should give the arguments more weight as he is definitely NOT a Cal hater nor a doom-and-gloom UK fan.

      We are currently not great. We have all the pieces but the ultimate goal of synergism remains elusive.

      Yes, In Cal we should trust…but we should also demand verification.

    • Hear hear, RG and C&M!



    • BigolBlue
      12:19 pm November 24, 2018 Permalink

      In cal I dont trust



  11. BPatte
    8:31 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

    You guys are dreaming!! How can you even mention being in the NCAA tournament? Our team this year is weak! Weak in every essential part of the game! Defense, turnovers, shooting percentage, rebounding, and so on! And this is against inferior teams! What did Duke do to us? Other teams have been much closer to Duke and Gonzaga beat them. Get ready for a rough year folks, this years team isn’t going to be feared by anyone and will be dominated by the better teams. Wait till North Carolina puts a whooping on our butt!!!!



    • CATandMONKEY
      8:40 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      I would happily bet a cool grand that this team makes the NCAA. Feel free to contact Matt and have them facilitate the bet…I wish that were possible.

      Suspect NC beats us but we still make the tourney, no lower than a 6-seed.

      Agree that Duke schooled us, and that hurts.
      Hope you are wrong with your prediction.
      Come March, feel free to roast any of us that aren’t quite as disenchanted as you, should we settle for the NIT.

      Peace.



    • DelrayCat
      10:14 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Like so many other “fans” here and ones I know…I doubt this poster has actually watched much other college basketball this year. EVERYONE has issues and struggles at times. No way you can tell me Virginia, Gonazaga, Tennessee, Auburn, etc. are really that much better than UK. We can match up against anyone. And if our shots are falling and the defenese improves…UK has as good a shot as anyone. If you think they are not even a tourney team…either you are trolling or severely ignorant about college basketball…period.



  12. murman
    8:44 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

    I think TJ is a great addition to KSR. Hey has great articles on games and recruiting. Don’t roast him for doing his job. He points out both good things and things the team should work on. What’s wrong with that? Even Cal said they weren’t a good team yet. Keep up the good work!



  13. Cat68
    9:08 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

    5 points: 1. we are UK 2. we have Coach Cal 3. we have 5-star freshmen 4. we have veteran leadership and 5. we’re playing lesser teams!!! Until all these combine and start mattering, all these posts are valid. The time to start ‘clicking’ has passed. We should be about proving why the 5 points matter!



  14. DelrayCat
    10:18 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

    Perhaps the Bahamas was merely a factor of playing lesser caliber opponents who were only there to take a beating, but this team has the pieces and can play…no weaknesses in terms of actual talent. Just need to learn to play together…and as the freshmen improve…this team will be a force. No need to worry yet. Sure they may take some losses, but they are a much better team overall than last year.



    • bigblue2284
      10:55 am November 24, 2018 Permalink

      Shooting is a weakness, we don’t have any consistent shooters. I do think shooting could improve if we would drive and kick to get better looks but that seems lost on Cal this year. The defense I believe will improve the offense is so stagnant, half court offense is always an issue with Cal’s teams.