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T.J.’s Takes: UK far from perfect with Duke looming

It was another less-than-stellar performance as UK finished its exhibition schedule with a 86-64 win over DII Indiana University Pennsylvania.

Kentucky didn’t seem overly motivated for the second straight game and it has left fans asking what happened to the Bahamas Cats. Tonight’s five takeaways will touch on the win, UK’s sloppy play, the experienced bigs, UK’s guards and looking ahead to Duke.

1. The Win:

Yikes. I’m not changing my preseason expectations because of tonight’s ugly win and I’m certainly not panicking, but it was another disappointing performance. If Kentucky plays with this effort against Duke it will be a blowout. UK could lose the Duke game and even that wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the Cats haven’t looked like a great basketball team since August and that’s somewhat concerning.

Some credit needs to go to IUP. UK didn’t play great, but IUP was legitimately good. They hit plenty of outside shots, but they were a smart team that played really well together. They took advantage of UK’s freshmen and made Kentucky work for the majority of their baskets. I would have thought that IUP was a MAC team, maybe C-USA. Certainly not DII. I watched Bellarmine take on Louisville and IUP looked much better.

UK did what they needed to do to get a win, but that was about it. Here are a few pros but mostly cons from Friday’s performance.

2. Sloppy Play:

Having more turnovers than IUP isn’t good (14-1). If the Cats didn’t have the Bahamas tour I could understand tonight’s turnovers, but UK has been playing and practicing together for over three months. They took care of the ball in their first outings against real competition and that was against grown professionals, not a DII team.

There’s too many players trying to do too much. Hopefully it’s just a one-game mindset because they thought they were going to crush IUP and they could play more aggressively, but there’s a difference between aggressiveness and carelessness. UK’s going to need several players to go into attack mode, but you can’t force the issue if it’s not there. It wasn’t there tonight for Keldon Johnson and that didn’t stop him from trying to take any and every player one-on-one. There will be games where doing less will do more for Keldon and the Cats.

But some of the passes were troubling tonight. Simple entry passes. Post, elbow, panic balls at the perimeter. Most of it seemed to be errant passes from the freshmen, and they’ll get better, but easy passes need to be easy. That’s a good way to blow a lead and allow an opposing team to start a big run.

3. Veteran Bigs:

Thank goodness for Reid Travis and P.J. Washington or else tonight would have been a different story. Both players are going to be incredibly important to UK’s success this year, but they’ll be more important for Kentucky to avoid upset losses. UK will rely on their consistency and even when other players struggle this season odds are you can count on Washington and Travis to bring the energy.

Washington is going to be a stud. I think he will be one of the best bigs in the country and we’ll be talking about how great of a decision he made returning for a sophomore season. We always saw flashes from Washington last season but he’s going to be more consistent this year and that high level of play will be the norm. I’m loving the way he’s moving without the ball. Maybe chalk it up to thinner PJ, but he’s catching the ball while in momentum more than just being set. It makes him more versatile and allows him to start with a head of steam. It’s fun to watch.

Travis is as blue collar of a Kentucky player that the Cats have had in years. He bumps, he grinds, he shines. In all seriousness, I love the way he talked with his teammates tonight. He made sure everyone was in the right spot and when UK’s lead was cut to seven he was caught on TV chatting with several players. It appeared he was trying to get them to lock in and finish off IUP.

Leadership is important, folks.

4. Guard play:

Kentucky’s not going to have the season it wants if it doesn’t have better point guard play. Things will get better, and Quickley, Hagans and Green will all improve, but one of those three will need to be good (or great) for the Cats to be able to beat Duke. The three combined for eight points, seven assists and four turnovers. One player should be putting up those numbers with half the turnovers.

I get it for Quickley and Hagans. I didn’t expect either to be elite in November, but Green’s disappointing night is concerning. When the younger guys were struggling he should have been able to step up and run the show, but he was just as shaky as the other players.

The most disappointing part was their defense. I was more disappointed with UK’s defense overall tonight than anything else. They were better against Transy, but they were really bad tonight. IUP had smaller guards, so maybe that had something to do with it, but these guys are going to need to guard Tre Jones and probably Cameron Reddish on Tuesday. They have a long way to go and not much time to get there.

Tyler Herro was the the best guard tonight. Five threes was special and it’s going to be a blast watching him grow as a player and as a scorer. The sky is the limit for that kid and it’s probably best we all enjoy his likely lone season in Kentucky.

5. Moving forward:

Bring. On. The. Blue. Devils. Ready or not, here they come. No. 2 vs. No. 4 in Indy on Tuesday night and the Cats will have the entire nation watching them the next time they take the floor.

There’s no doubt there’s some boredom from this team. They’ve already shined against professional teams. They put on a show at Big Blue Madness. They want the big stage and it was clear they weren’t overly interested in meaningless exhibitions. Let’s hope that was the biggest contributor to UK’s poor play over the last seven days and they will be able to turn it on against Duke.

Washington and Travis won’t allow UK to be blown out. The Cats will have the advantage inside and those two should thrive, but Kentucky needs one more player to have a big game. Maybe it’s Johnson. Maybe it’s Herro. Maybe Green surprises us and steps up in a big way and hits some threes. If one of those three have a big game, along with Washington/Travis,  UK will be in a position to win the game. But there’s no doubt Cal will get his team’s attention after tonight.

Bring it on.




Article written by TJ Walker

22 Comments for T.J.’s Takes: UK far from perfect with Duke looming

  1. Just saying
    9:19 pm November 2, 2018 Permalink

    Dude. It’s exhibition!

  2. JusSayin
    9:20 pm November 2, 2018 Permalink

    This team did just beat Morehead State 91-84 the other day.

    We should have played better but I feel like peoples perception is skewed by the fact they have D2 next to their name. They would beat a lot of D1 teams and they’ve already beat one.

  3. Bobbum Man
    9:20 pm November 2, 2018 Permalink

    I think the team will be fine and they’ll show up to play Tuesday night… cats by 54

  4. Sublem
    9:24 pm November 2, 2018 Permalink

    Effort was an issue this game, it was clear as day. Same with the last game. Expect to see much better effort against Duke.

  5. bigbluebanana
    9:48 pm November 2, 2018 Permalink

    This was an exhibition. It’s laughable seeing all the negative Nancy’s! We won by 22. TJ, you answered your own concerns…this team IS absolutely bored, you and the rest of KSR have spent months telling us how these guys are big time and want the big stage, then you say it’s concerning that they only beat IUP by 22? I live right beside Indiana, PA, this game was the biggest thing to happen to their campus since ever. They were hyped, the town was hyped. Lastly, why show all your cards to one of the greatest to ever coach the game period? I despise K as much as anyone, but he’s a bloody legendary coach. We just gonna give him all the tape he needs to shut us down?

    • henderblue
      9:18 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

      You’re right bbb. It’s an exhibition game, that team is really good, and we get everyone’s best game,every time out. We’ll be fine. Will be a good game Tuesday night and a great and fun season.

  6. az1006
    11:22 pm November 2, 2018 Permalink

    I’m not concerned at all. The team in the Bahamas was fired up, playing against grown men, and we saw what they can do. They haven’t regressed…They’re just looking ahead to Tuesday. Like all of us. Young teams tend to play to the level of their competition, so I don’t have any doubt we will see a much better effort from everyone Tuesday night.

  7. kjd
    8:11 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

    IUP had small guards which effected our guard play. So we’ll be fine when we play big time talent with big guards. SMH

    • check
      8:29 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

      I appreciate everyone’s input. Basically we want a better version of our Bahama Cats team. Because as good as they were, they could be sloppy. If they become the lock down defensive team that characterized the Anthony Davis team or the WCS team, we will have #9. It will take better point guard play.

    • RAGE
      9:56 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

      Lol I didn’t get that either in the article… I don’t care what kind of guards we play… Shouldn’t matter if they are big little or anything else… Kentucky’s guards where some of the top recruits in the nation they should handle it… I really think Ashton Hogan’s will be the man by March but we have to remember right now he should be getting ready for his high school basketball season to start… So he will be fine

  8. bigblueteach
    9:00 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

    They may lose against Duke, won’t matter. By the end of the season they will know how to play ball together and get through their bracket. Cal will have them together, maybe not Tuesday night but by March they will be best in the nation.

  9. RAGE
    9:50 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

    Kentucky will be fine!!!! This game they just went through the motions to get a win… Tuesday night against Duke you will see a completely different team…. Will we play great against Duke maybe but probably not… Young team freshmen’s first game may get a little to hyped up… As U.K. fans we should be use to this we are always young but I have learned to trust Cal and his process… Tonight was a good teaching moment and Cal will make sure they don’t overlook anyone else again… But this was an exhibition we shouldn’t over react… But that’s the fun of the season lol that we do get to over react and over analyze everything… But I trust Cal will get their attention and I honestly believe this will be the team to win #9….

  10. shelby
    10:22 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

    At this point, we have too many point guards; pick one and make him the starter and give him the most minutes. We also need to look into the post more when travis is sitting. We only looked to the post when travis was in. Nick is really good and should be posting up more. Defense is awful; herro can’t guard his shadow. These things will certainly improve during the season, not sure they will improve enough by tuesday.

  11. mccullou
    10:33 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

    They do well when they play free from worry, such as in the Bahamas; but then Calipari spends weeks yelling after their every mistake and then they get tight and mess up more. His response is to yell at them to play free from worry. Catch 22.

  12. cking
    10:42 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

    I see a lot of excuses being written..

    We go from smoking grown men to getting smoked by small D2 guards. Our defense is terrible.

    This team has regressed since the Bahamas.

    Our Guards in particular are concerning.

    If they play like this on Tuesday are going to get embarrassed by Duke.

    Reid and Pj are going to have a difficult Time containing Zion.

    Barrett & Reddish will destroy Keldon and the guards if we play this level of defense.

    I remember when we destroyed Kansas in this game a few years ago..i hope the roles are not reversed.

    I don’t want to see a bunch of Zion Highlights on sports center dunking all over our boys:..

    We will see…

  13. lexcatfan2367
    11:24 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

    This was game two of the season. Who the hell said duke was the greatest thing since sliced bread? Every time we play in the champions classic it’s the same bs. We are UK—they are Duke. Let’s just play the damn game, shall we?

  14. RAGE
    11:38 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

    Duke is full of Freshmen also… remember it is their first game as well… I don’t really get why everyone is so infatuated with Zion… I am sure he will dunk the ball a few times against us as he probably will against most teams…. But I ain’t as worried about him as Cameron Reddish and RJ Barrett… From what I seen you keep him out of the paint he is neutralized… but Duke is less talented and I know ESPN thinks Coach K hung the moon but has anyone under achieved the last few seasons more than Duke… They have been the favorite to win the last 2 national champs in the preseason and they haven’t even received a 1 seed in the tourney…. They are no we’re near as ready to play against us as we are them… So it should be fun I still think we beat them double figures… they may hang close for the first 30 min but lack of Depth is their downfall.. Their should be a lot of fouls and if it is called both ways we have more to give

    • RAGE
      11:41 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

      JMO though I could be wrong…. and if I am it is just one game but my pride will just for a while if we lose cause I can’t stand Duke and how ESPN portrays them

    • RAGE
      11:42 am November 3, 2018 Permalink

      Hurt… sorry I left it out my “pride will be hurt for a while”

  15. Kat4Life
    7:56 am November 4, 2018 Permalink

    The thing that concerns me is our porous man to man defense. If Wally Cleaver can blow by Keldon Johnson I can only imagine what RJ Barrett will do to him.

  16. Urincatland
    3:42 am November 5, 2018 Permalink

    81-74 Kentucky