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Grand Canyon Antelopes 45, Kentucky Wildcats 85: First Impressions

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Kentucky cruised to a comfortable victory over the GCU Antelopes, but it wasn't the kind of performance Wildcat fans were hoping for.

Andy Lyons

The first game of the 2014 season is in the books for the Kentucky Wildcats, and as expected, they had no difficulty dispatching the game but undersized, under-talented and under-experienced Grand Canyon Antelopes. The Wildcats as a team played very much as expected, and their length and size were just a nightmare for the ‘Lopes, who were very much a conventionally-sized college basketball team.

Thanks to Dan Majerle and his game Antelopes squad for the contest. I really like what Majerle is doing at Grand Canyon, and I think this GCU sqad has potential to finish somewhere in the middle of the WAC this season. Next season, they may be an NCAA Tournament team. There is more talent there than I expected, and they executed about as well as they could given the difficulties presented by Kentucky.

For Kentucky, I thought they played very hard on defense, but shot the ball pretty poorly from everywhere on the floor. The dominant offensive rebounding made the margin pretty big, but this was the kind of game Kentucky could’ve been challenged in if the opponent had been more talented. A lot of these offensive rebounds Kentucky would not get against a taller, more talented team. Like, say, Kansas, for instance.

Still, you have to be impressed with Kentucky’s defensive effort. Holding teams to under 50 points is impressive, no matter who it is, and Kentucky has played worse teams than this GCU team in recent seasons. It was just a bit of a struggle tonight for the Wildcats on offense.

Stats

Observations

  • I thought Kentucky’s offense was inefficient tonight, and didn’t look smooth a lot of the time.

  • Too many point-blank layups missed by all kinds of people. That was a bit of a problem last season, and it’s starting out that way this season.

  • I don’t have the numbers yet, but it was an outstanding offensive rebounding effort by Kentucky.

  • Turnovers didn’t look to be a problem, but we’ll know for sure when the full stats are available. Overall, though, ballhandling could've been better.

  • Not as happy with the passing today. Too many "selfish" plays. The ball movement wasn’t up to par.

  • There was a point early in the second half where Kentucky’s energy was surprisingly low. We have to avoid that.

  • Tyler Ulis has to learn how to handle the trap, because he’s going to see them a lot with his lack of size.

  • 21% from three won’t get it done.

  • 74% from the line will be fine, but Kentucky needed to get there more than 19 times.

Overall, this was the kind of game you often see early in the season — a game that, despite not being very competitive, gives you reason to complain a little. This was not the kind of effort we need to see from Kentucky against more talented squads. The Wildcats were never in danger of losing, but when you are facing a team with a severe talent deficit, you want to show you can play the game well. Tonight, I thought that Kentucky played the game okay, particularly offensively. Defensively, they were fine except for a few hands-down possessions on the perimeter. But I saw that improve with coaching, and that’s encouraging.

Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, opening night is in the books. It may be that the Wildcats had a few butterflies tonight, but I see nothing to be particularly concerned about other than the feeling that this was just a so-so game from a team capable of much better. Yes, only a UK fan could call a 40-point blowout a so-so game, but we need to see sharper execution offensively.