That’s what we needed to see. Kentucky’s loss to Duke was shocking and eye-opening for the Cats, and that showed against Southern Illinois. Kentucky was able to get back on track Wednesday with a good ol’ fashion beat down of North Dakota. The Cats defeated the Fighting Hawks 96-58
Here are five takeaways from Kentucky’s win.
1. The Win:
Kentucky started off a little slow, but given the late start and a mostly empty Rupp Arena I understand the sleepy start. The good news is it didn’t take long for the Cats to get on track and this game was over eight minutes after it started. That’s what we were hoping and needing to see after last Tuesday.
This is easily the worst team Kentucky has played this season and the schedule will be filled with similar teams until December. Kentucky still had plenty of mistakes against North Dakota, and I’ll discuss some of them, but overall it was a much cleaner and more efficient performance.
The thing I liked is that the mistakes tonight weren’t as severe as in the first two games and seemed easily fixable. This team isn’t where it needs to be, but it may not be as far off as we thought.
2. The Mistakes:
Let’s get the negatives out of the way so we can have three straight positive takes. Here are the things I didn’t like about tonight’s game:
- Turnovers. UK had 13 turnovers against the Fighting Hawks, which isn’t as many as Friday but still too many, especially against a bad team. It seems to mostly be coming from the freshmen and P.J. Washington. They accounted for eight of the turnovers. The freshmen I understand, they’re trying to do too much and they haven’t pegged down the speed of the game just yet. But there’s no excuse for Washington. He’s been flatout careless.
- Effort. There’s still too much standing around. Again, it seems to be mostly from freshmen. I don’t think it’s laziness but the lack of understanding you can’t take off possessions at this level. They’ve only played three college games, so they’ll learn, but the sooner the better.
That’s about it. Pretty good game all around and the freshmen will get smarter and better.
It’s great news for UK that the guards have stepped up over the last 55 minutes of Kentucky’s season. Immanuel Quickley and Quade Green led the way in the final 15 minutes against Southern Illinois and those two played well tonight, but welcome to college basketball, Tyler Herro.
Herro was a star against North Dakota and showcased an ability to hit from outside, shoot midrange shots and get to the rim. It was what we were waiting to see offensively from Herro and what we should expect most nights. Kentucky needs him.
Green’s stats were good, not great. Six points, five assists and two rebounds, but I thought he didn’t make too many mistakes (one really bad pass) but I liked the way he defended.
Quickley looks like he may be UK’s point guard come March. Yes, we have a longtime and a lot of basketball until then, but he seems to be in command and you can tell the game is slowing down.
Finally some reason for optimism from UK’s backcourt.
4. P.J.’s BACK:
I was really impressed by P.J.’s bounceback game tonight. He stunk against Southern Illinois and he played with much better energy tonight. This could be an issue going forward but it was clear that P.J.’s success offensively fueled the rest of his game. That’s a dangerous thing to rely on, but it was clear that once he saw a few shots drop that he was locked in. Elite players don’t need to score to have a great game, so let’s hope this isn’t a trend for P.J.
But man could he score. A career-high four three pointers and they all looked pure. He shouldn’t become too reliant on only scoring from the perimeter, and I don’t think he will, but if he plays it properly it’s only going to make him more versatile and tougher to defend.
I still think he will be UK’s best player when it’s all said and done, but he really does need to stop the turnovers.
5. Moving Forward:
Bring on VMI for a revenge game! I don’t know much about the Keydets this season, but they lost to Pittsburgh by nearly 40 and Pittsburgh stinks.
It should be another easy win for the Cats and honestly UK should break 100 points, but let’s hope to see UK continue to work on the turnovers and gets more stops.
Tonight was a step in the right direction and I expect UK to keep it going with a blowout of VMI.