After an extremely shaky start, the Kentucky Wildcats bounced back to defeat the Utah Valley Wolverines, 73-63 on Friday. A tale of two halves, many fans are still wondering which of these two Kentucky teams we will see more of moving forward.
Here are three things to know from the rocky season opener.
If you have two point guards, you don’t have a point guard.
I realize this adage is usually applied to the quarterback position, but I think it fits here. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander started at point guard for the Wildcats tonight, and it seems like Coach Cal has settled into rotating him with Green in the starting spot.
Alexander very well may end up being the better player, and he certainly seems to be the better athlete. We saw that in the defensive clinic he put on in the 2-3 zone to open the second half.
But considering that every bucket this season can’t come on a fast break, the Kentucky offense looks so much more fluid when Green is setting the pace. I realize this was the first game of the season, but the sooner you lock in the guy running the show the quicker your offensive chemistry will develop.
Defense is a team sport.
Yes, these guys are long and fast. Yes, they have the potential to be an elite defensive group. Yes, that zone in the second half was NIIICE.
But the zone will not work against everyone. And aside from maybe Sacha Killeya-Jones, they looked completely lost when the Wolverines ran any type of screen, on or off the ball.
Sacha Killeya-Jones moving those feet and swatting the shot. pic.twitter.com/YnKfIV0RwD— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) November 11, 2017
Team defense is the name of the game, and they have to be able to play man-to-man against elite teams. Utah Valley completely carved up the man defense in the first half.. This is something that will improve with time and reputations (hopefully sooner rather than later), but it is definitely a concern for now.
The offense will come.
It was very rough start for the Wildcats offensively, shooting just 21.9% from the floor in the first half. Some of that can be attributed to a lack of fluidity on offense, but it seemed like most of it had to do with nerves. Utah State came out aggressive and capable, and the young Kentucky team did not respond well to the punch in the mouth.
Thanks to several fun fast-break dunks, the numbers looked much better for the second half. I would be willing to bet that the second half statistics are closer to what we will see moving forward than the first-half debacle.
Here is the final box score:
Now. let’s talk about what we just witnessed.