Kentucky has now won back-to-back games after their loss to UCLA.
They dominated the final 25 minutes or so of Sunday’s win over Hofstra and ran away with a 96-73 win. The Cats struggled against the Pride’s zone defense at times, but thanks to Derek Willis’ early contributions and Isaiah Briscoe’s leadership, they were still able to score on that zone.
As the game went on, they were able to play at a normal Kentucky pace, running the floor and scoring in transition. That did a lot to help the Cats make this game a blowout.
Here are three things to know about the win.
Starting Derek Willis was the right decision
John Calipari made the move to sit Wenyen Gabriel and start Willis for this game in order to help attack Hofstra’s zone defense. It worked out pretty well, as Willis hit his first two shots, including one three-pointer, for 5 points.
His shooting touch helped Kentucky beat the Hofstra zone early on, and he also made his presence felt in a couple other places in the first half, recording 1 steal, 1 block, and 4 rebounds. Starting Willis was the right decision here.
Isaiah Briscoe knows how to beat the zone
Briscoe has been the heart and soul of this team, and that’s no different today. He led the offensive attack early on by directing the offense and calling the plays. Watching the game, you could see his leadership on display when running the offense to attack the zone defense.
You could also see it in his stat line; Briscoe led all scorers in the first half with 15 points, and he shot 6-7 from the field. Hofstra was able to slow Kentucky’s pace with the zone defense, but Briscoe made sure that their performance didn’t suffer because of that early on.
Briscoe continued to play well through the rest of the game, as he finished with 19 points on 8-11 shooting and 6 assists.
Cats better hope they don’t get a Syracuse in future
Kentucky struggled against the zone today. Even though Briscoe helped lead the charge, the team still had 7 turnovers because of that half court zone. In the second half Kentucky was able to overwhelm Hofstra with their pace, and get out and run in transition.
If they play a really good team that can also run a zone defense and dictate pace, they may be in trouble. Thankfully, it’s still very early in the season, and UK should be better adjusted to zone defenses by the time March rolls around.