It was a game that was shaping up to be a big win by the Cats, who led by 16 points at one point in the first half. However, a barrage of threes by the Eagles would cut the lead down to three late in the second half before the Cats pulled away with a 12-0 run late.
Here are four things to know:
This game was much closer than expected, as the Eagles made a strong push in the second half. This team is young and will have a lot of growing pains, something this game served as a reminder for.
For most of the night, UK only used the top 7-9 guys in their rotation, so it wasn’t like the Eagles were staying close with Brad Calipari and the walk-ons.
Morehead would keep battling and cut the lead to 49-46 with 14:26 to play after UK led by as many as 16 in the first half, but came out of the halftime locker room without the same energy.
That’s when UK really woke up and put the away for good by outscoring the Eagles down the stretch.
It was concerning to see UK struggle to pull away from a Morehead State team that went 14-16 last season. However, it was great seeing the young Cats respond with authority to build a lead as big as 23 down the stretch.
Starting Lineup Tinkering
Take this with a grain of salt since this was an extra exhibition game — which presents the chance for UK to try some unconventional lineups they may not otherwise use — but Shai Alexander got his first start at point guard, while PJ Washington got his first nod at center against Morehead State.
They were joined by Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox and Wenyen Gabriel in the lineup. It was effectively Shai at the point, Hami at shooting guard, Knox on the wing, Gabriel at power forward and Washington at center.
That’s a great small-ball lineup with more defensive potential at point guard, but it remains to be seen how much of this lineup we’ll see once the real games begin.
For what it’s worth, it was Quade Green, Diallo, Knox, Washington and Nick Richards as the starters against Thomas More last Friday. That’s more likely to be the lineup when the regular-season begins, but it’s good to see Shai getting his chance to start at the point, while Washington got his chance to prove he can hold up at center against a Division I foe.
Enjoy The Process
Maybe this was a sign of struggles to come. Maybe tonight was a fluke and UK will still win 30-plus games before the NCAA Tournament even starts.
Regardless of what it was, it was another good reminder to just enjoy the process of watching this team grow, even if it does come with more lumps than expected.
We saw the good and the bad of this team tonight. As long as this team stays on the path Calipari lays out for them, the good will greatly outweigh the bad over the course of the season.
The night would have been a success even had UK lost, and that’s because over $400,000 was raised for charity:
It wasn’t quite the $500K number Calipari was hoping to hit, but it’s still great to see the Big Blue Nation generate that much money for charity through an exhibition game.
And there’s no question the NCAA has to allow every team to do this going forward. It’s a travesty we weren’t seeing these sooner across college athletics.
Here is the final box score:
Now, let’s talk about we just listened to (or watched if you attended)!