Though they won by 24, Kentucky led Canisius by just nine points at halftime.
Led by their three starting guards who combined for 58 points, the Wildcats pulled away from the Golden Griffins in the second half for a 93-69 win and move their record to 2-0.
The Guards Balled
As mentioned, the guard play for Kentucky stole the show. Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe posted 21 points along with five rebounds and two assists. Freshman guard De’Aaron Fox also scored 21 points, tacking on four rebounds and two assists as well. Fox’s fellow first year teammate Malik Monk broke his Friday night shooting slump, going 5-11 from the floor and 2-6 from the 3-point line for 16 points.
Briscoe went for 17 in the first half, which really was the difference between UK leading by nine and trailing a team they were favored to beat by 30. It’s great seeing him step up when this freshman-heavy team struggles like they did in the first half before taking over after halftime.
Bam Bounced Back
While the guards were elite for Kentucky, the size of the Wildcats also made it’s presence in the game. After playing just 43 seconds in Friday’s first half and only 15 minutes for the game, Edrice “Bam” Adebayo logged 27 minutes during tonight’s outing.
Making the most of the increased playing time, Bam posted a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds with three blocked shots. He reminded everyone he’s one of the best bigs in America, but he still missed some bunnies that can’t happen against better teams.
Defense A Mixed Bag
Though the Cats seemed to have an off first half, they still shot over 50% from the floor while holding Canisius to 41%. Kentucky also out rebounded the Golden Griffins while blocking more shots, recording less turnovers and shooting more free throws as well.
You’d like to to think UK could win the rebound battle by more than a 39-36 margin, but it is what it is. This team has the talent to dominate the boards, so hopefully that will come with time.
The Cats also had just four steals, which should never happen with the players UK has against a team like Canisius. Only one of them came from starters (Monk), and the other three came from Dominique Hawkins (2) and Mychal Mulder (1).
There is no excuse for Fox, Monk and Briscoe to ever combine for one steal in any game, whether it’s Canisius, Duke or Kansas. This stat helped show how much the effort tonight wasn’t there compared to Friday when UK had 12 steals, seven of which by starters.
On the positive side UK has held its first two opponents to a combined 9-of-40 (22.5%) shooting from three-point range, so they’re playing good defense on the perimeter.
Kentucky will face a tough test in New York Tuesday night as they take on the 12th ranked Michigan State Spartans. The game with be part of the State Farm Champions Classic. Hosted in Madison Square Garden, tip off is scheduled for 7 P.M. EDT and will be aired on ESPN.