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Highlights and 5 takeaways from Kentucky Basketball edging Utah Valley

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Win No. 1 is always a special one.

Utah Valley v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As you might have expected, the Kentucky Wildcats kicked off their season opener with a win. However, it was an ugly one at that. Kentucky trailed by nine at halftime on their own hardwood to the Utah Valley Wolverines, shocking Big Blue Nation. It didn't take long for head coach John Calipari to light a fire under his young team.

The Wildcats pulled a second-half comeback to defeat the Wolverines, 73-63. Here are five takeaways from the Cats' first game & what to expect going forward.

Patience is Key

John Calipari warned Big Blue Nation that this team would be behind other top-ranked schools to start the season. While the first half mirrored his comments and the Cats indeed pulled out the comeback win, it will take more than just a half of basketball to fully exercise the potential of this team.

The Wolverines are a respectable team but aren't as good as Vermont and no where near as talented as Kansas (the two teams Kentucky will play next). Don't expect such elite play from the Wildcats early this season, however, the sky is their ceiling down the stretch.

Nick Richards Proved Me Wrong

Following Kentucky's three exhibition games, I was on record saying the three performances by Richards were misleading. His awareness wasn't there and Kentucky didn't exactly play towering teams.

However, Friday night the big man got the start at center for the Wildcats and did not disappoint, recording 10 points with three boards and as many blocked shots. With the inconsistency from other bigs Friday night, Cal could lean on Richards even more in these next few games.

Kevin Knox is For Real

The best player on the court doesn't always fill up the box score. If they are, or aren't, they always find a way to make their presence felt in the game. Knox had an off night (12 points on 3-11 shooting) but ignited a key 18-0 run to start the second half that pulled Kentucky back into the game. As Knox continues to gel his offensive game, I absolutely see him being Kentucky's best defender & leader on the court.

Where's Quade Green?

Green was exceptional in Kentucky's three exhibition games. However, Friday night he shot just 0-4, netting four free throws late in the game for four points. He recorded just one assist and one rebound. Green registered a -8 +/- and wasn't a factor in Kentucky's win. Going forward they'll need much more from who I believe can become a Tyler Ulis-type player for the Cats.

Can Hamidou Diallo Feed Off His Strong Second Half?

Diallo shot just 2-8 in the first half (5 points) and seemed to be a headache for Calipari. However, the redshirt freshman came out in the second half to shoot 6 of 8 for 13 points. Diallo led the Cats in scoring with 18 and netted a +20 +/-. He recorded just 1 turnover and grabbed 5 boards with 3 assists. Diallo's outside shot was impressive, making 2 of 4 from deep. His athleticism in the open court also stood out. Kentucky will desperately need his offense going forward.

Kentucky will have a day of rest before they take on Vermont Sunday afternoon at Rupp Arena. Then, the real challenge begins as they travel to Chicago to face 4th ranked Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic. Though no spread has been released, ESPN's Power Index is currently giving Kentucky just a 33.1% chance of upsetting the Jayhawks.

Now, enjoy some highlights of win No. 1:

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