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'Cats vs Colonels: What We Learned in the 88-67 Win

UK started strong, took a 14 point lead into halftime, and ended up winning by a tally of 21 points on the back of Alex Poythress' strong effort. So what did we learn?

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats were coming off a stinging loss that had festered for nearly a week.  The 'Cats came out strong and hard against the Colonels from down the road in Richmond.  While Eastern made it close at times in the first half, UK ended up stretching it to a 50-36 halftime lead.

Kentucky built upon a strategy of attacking down low.  Poythress, Briscoe, Labissiere, and Lee all got into the act early and often to grow the deficit.  Eastern came out hot to start the 2nd half, scoring 10 unanswered to get it back to a 6-point deficit and a timeout by Cal.

The 'Cats would curb the run and ultimately pull back away to a 14 point deficit, only to see EKU go on a 10-2 run and get within 8 points.  A big three-pointer with about 4-minutes left by Jamal Murray derailed any visions of a comeback for Eastern.

Kentucky would turn to Alex Poythress down the stretch, who finished with a near career high of 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the 'Cats.

Kentucky advances to 8-1 and looks to build upon this win when the Bobby Hurley-led Arizona State Sun Devils come to Rupp on Saturday.

  • Poythress Got The Message: Alex started out attacking the rim and kept on attacking, whether it be on the defensive rebounding front or offensive.  Poythress ended up with another double-double consisting of 21 points and 13 rebounds.  When Poythress is that kind of player, we are a tough team to beat.  We get any shooting to go along with that and I am not sure we are beatable.
  • Around The Rim Defense: We have some of the worst defense around the rim. If we could play ourselves the score would be 172-171 with 90% shooting. When teams drive it seems like 80-90% of the time they either get fouled, make the shot, or make the shot off the rebound. UK really did NOT play much defense tonight, they held a team averaging 90 to 67 points, but it was largely due to simply having better players guarding lesser players.
  • Offensive Improvement: The offense bounced back nicely, but I do not want to gush too much over an offensive improvement against a team that gives up 82 points per game (350th in America).  Having said that, I did like the better decisions and better attacking; however, I am still frustrated with our shooting.
  • Ulis' vision: Tyler Ulis misses nothing, ever.  It is amazing how many times you watch the man and he makes the right decision and always finds the open man.
  • Isaiah Briscoe is a closer: Nobody on the team can finish at the rim like Briscoe can; in fact, I dare say he is the best finisher I have seen at UK in my time watching them.  Well, he may not be the best, but he is 1B to a guy named John Wall.  When Briscoe goes up in the lane, I count it in my head already as a deuce.
  • Old Man Willis' Shot: Derek Willis, of the nickel-colored hair variety, has a hair trigger.  I am okay with shooting it any chance you are open, but it seems Derek is shooting the ball before he even touches it.  I have to think if he got set every time he would shoot a high percentage.
  • The Skal Labissiere Project: Skal is clearly going to be a year-long project (a UK project is infinitely better than a non-UK one, FYI) for Cal. He took a few baby steps forward but still has a long way to go.  He did get a few more rebounds, but had at least three instances I saw where he got embarrassingly pushed around or simply did not prevent a few shots from happening that he should have been able to.
  • Marcus Lee is a Difference Maker: Marcus Lee ended up with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks while adding a dimension to a much-needed group of players.  Do you think that could have helped against UCLA?