The first five games are in the books for the Kentucky Wildcats and there is plenty to digest. They started the season as the number one team in the country and the odds on favorites to win it all. The ranking has changed but the ‘Cats still are looked at as the team to beat when March rolls around.
Let's take a look back at the first five game stretch and I'll let you know my thoughts on this team at this juncture of the season.
Kentucky 89- UNC Asheville 57
Star of the Game- Julius Randle: 23 points and 15 rebounds
Co-Star of the Game- Alex Poythress: 10 points and 13 rebounds
Interesting Stats of the Game: Kentucky out-rebounded UNC Asheville 47 to 31. They didn't shoot their best, going 27.3% from three and 62.5% from the free throw stripe. Marcus Lee played 15 minutes and scored 17 points. They committed only seven turnovers forced 13.
Kentucky 93- Northern Kentucky 63
Star of the Game- Julius Randle: 22 points and 14 rebounds
Co-Star of the Game- Andrew Harrison: 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover.
Interesting Stats of the Game- Kentucky's free throw shooting and three point shooting improved. They shot 31.8% from the three and 68.4% from the charity stripe. They had 51 rebounds to the Norse's 23 (That's just ridiculous). The Norse almost outscored the ‘Cats in the second half, scoring 41 to UK's 45.
Kentucky 74- Michigan State 78
Star of the Game- Julius Randle: 27 points and 13 rebounds.
Co-Star of the Game- James Young: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal
Interesting Stats of the Game- Kentucky committed a season high 17 turnovers and shot a woeful 20% from three and 55.6% from the free throw line. Kentucky outscored MSU 42-34 in the second half. The ‘Cats out-rebounded Sparty 44-32. MSU committed 27 fouls compared to UK's 19. But UK had only 8 assists while MSU had 17.
Kentucky 87- Robert Morris 49
Star of the Game- Aaron Harrison: 28 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Co-Star of the Game- Willie Cauley-Stein: 7 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks
Interesting Stats of the Game- Shooting percentages are climbing: Free throws- 70.6%; Threes- 36.8%. The ‘Cats again murdered their opponents on the boards grabbing 56 to Bobby Mo's 33. UK dished out 20 assists but committed 15 turnovers. Robert Morris was held to shooting 23.2% from the field, going 16-69. That's damn good.
Kentucky 105- Texas Arlington 76
Star of the Game- James Young: 26 points, 5-10 from three, 8-14 from the field
Co-Star of the Game- Julius Randle: 22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks
Interesting Stats of the Game- Kentucky let UTA have a good night shooting the ball: 41.3% from the field, 42.1% from three, 72.7% from the free throw line. 46 rebounds to 34 in favor of Kentucky. Kentucky had 18 assists and only 8 turnovers. That's a stat line that needs to improve continually. Kentucky had 7 steals and 8 blocks compared to 3 steals and 0 blocks from the Mavericks.
Thoughts and Observations
- These guys are stat stuffers. You can look at the stat line for any player on any given night and see that it is filled to the brim. This team has a group of players that can literally do it all. The big men cannot only block shots, they can steal the ball. The guards can assist but they are also above average rebounders for their positions. They are multi-faceted and multi-talented.
- Julius Randle is THE guy on the team, but any player can go off when it comes to scoring at any time. So far the ‘Cats have had three different players score over 20 points in a game and that number will continue to grow. There won't be a game when everybody on the team is off. At least one guy will produce big points.
- The rebounding of this team is unlike anything I've seen at Kentucky in my time as a fan. They have out-rebounded opponents 244 to 153. That number is absolutely staggering. They are averaging 49 rebounds a game. Also, take into consideration that a fantastic rebounding team in the Spartans are in that mix; that makes these numbers even more impressive. If this rebound margin continues, Kentucky will be in the mix to win every single game they play. Their size will smother some teams.
- Turnovers aren't a big problem. Outside of the Michigan State game, I've been pretty pleased.
- Free throws have been a problem, but if you look at the above stats, you can see that they are improving. Most of these guys are terrific outside shooters, so the free throw numbers puzzled me.
- The perimeter defense isn't where it needs to be. The ‘Cats have shown flashes of greatness in that regard, but overall it is going to be a hindrance until it is fixed. But I like the attitude of this team and it seems as if they are willing to hustle and work on their flaws.
- I have been impressed with the bench. Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee and Dominique Hawkins have all given quality minutes at one time or another this season. This team is very deep.
Five Six Up [Because we had to include UNC on this list -a2d2]: 11/25 vs. Cleveland State; 11/27 vs. Eastern Michigan; 12/1 vs. Providence (@ the Barclay's Center); 12/6 vs. #20 Baylor (@ Texas Stadium); 12/10 vs. Boise State; 12/14 at #24 North Carolina