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Pikeville 68 at Kentucky 116: First Impressions

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Kentucky's first exhibition was an easy victory. The Wildcats looked good, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Wildcats fans, this was a fun opening exhibition game. Kentucky was pretty much what we would’ve suspected they would be — brilliant in some ways, not so great in others. This teams showed itself to be worthy of the #1 ranking if that is possible in an exhibition game (at least they didn’t leave the issue in doubt for longer than expected), but there are a number of things that could and must improve before Kentucky takes on Kansas only 16 days hence.

A hearty thanks to the Pikeville Bears, who were without a couple of their bigger players for this game. They were very small, but they were skilled, determined and unafraid. The size disadvantage really carries a cost, because having to live without significant offensive rebounding and being forced to take shots outside the paint is a tough way to play a basketball game. Pikeville made the best of what they had, and I think it will serve them well in the NAIA down the road.

For Kentucky, this was just a scrimmage with officials, really, though they played with excellent energy and intensity despite the fact that their opponent was a smaller school in a smaller division. They took the Bears seriously, and played as if they might be a quality non-conference foe. I really liked the energy, the effort, and the focus of Kentucky from tip to horn. Execution was flawed, even if that didn’t matter much against their vertically-challenged opponent, but it will matter later on.

Box Score

A few quick observations

  • Karl-Anthony Towns played really well. He was almost perfect from the field, and played decent defense. He was rewarded by getting the most minutes on the team.

  • I thought Andrew Harrison played a great game. He defended well, he had an obscene number of assists (I don’t know how many, but I know it was more than seven), and he just did almost everything well.

  • Devin Booker was terrific. He made threes, he ran the floor, and he defended. He also made mistakes, but this was the best his shot has looked in his time as a Wildcat.

  • I thought Alex Poythress really played well. He didn’t score all that much, but he was active and 2-3 from the 3-point line.

  • Transition defense was not that bad. I want it to be better, but it wasn’t horrible. Honestly, I didn’t expect that.

  • Loved the ball sharing. More, please.

  • Marcus Lee is trying to do his best WCS imitation and guard backcourt players. And he did pretty darn well at it, too.

  • Tyler Ulis was calm and precise. I have to give him credit, the young guy gives you a sense of confidence with the ball in his hands.

  • A little disappointed in Derek Willis. He and Dominque Hawkins are capable of better.

I’ll have more in the postmortem when I have time to finish looking at the tape, but this was a fine effort by both teams. Pikeville played hard, and Kentucky did some good things, but still has plenty of room to get better. This Kentucky team looks to be as advertised, and I expect we’ll see even more improvement against Georgetown College next weekend.