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Kentucky Basketball: Pros and Cons following loss to Kansas Jayhawks

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Knox is legit, and Sacha is finally blossoming.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Kansas Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The young & talented Kentucky Wildcats made their appearance in Chicago, IL Tuesday night for the State Farm Champions Classic. Following the heavily anticipated matchup of first & second ranked Duke and Michigan State, Kentucky (ranked seventh) took on the fourth ranked Kansas Jayhawks.

The game was sloppy and gritty, and in the end fell slightly in favor of the Jayhawks. The Wildcats will travel home with their first loss of the season, 65-61. Though they indeed lost the game, here are both positives and negatives to ponder upon leading up to their next game.

Pros

Kevin Knox is For-Real

Knox had a rather quiet first two games. However, in my preview of this game, I said to expect a big night from the 10th ranked player in the 2017 class. Knox kept Kentucky in it early, hitting three momentum-swinging 3-point shots in the first half.

He was their go-to guy down the stretch and in the end missed a shot to potentially send the game to overtime. Though he & his teammates came up short, expect great performances by Knox throughout the rest of the season.

Sacha Over Wenyen?

All the talk this summer was how much work Wenyen Gabriel had put in and how he decided to come back for another year at Kentucky to improve his game & lead this young team. However, three games into the season, Sacha Killeya-Jones seems to have taken that role.

Killeya-Jones has simply out-played Gabriel over the last two games. He had nine rebounds, three blocks & eight points in Tuesday's game. He's also seen more minutes than Gabriel for two straight games. There's much basketball left to be played but as of now, it's no secret who is playing better.

Negatives

Effort & Awareness

Turnovers and rebounds were both an issue for the Wildcats against the Jayhawks. Kentucky coughed it up 18 times and gave up as many offensive rebounds. Even if you cut those stats in half, it's hard to win games against great teams like Kansas when you give them so many extra opportunities.

They're both fixable and since Kentucky is such young team, there should be much room for improvement. How long it will take, though, is another story.

Free Throw Shooting

It was obvious going into the season that Kentucky would struggle to shoot from the outside. However, the difference in this game was more so from the free-throw line. With Kansas actually shooting a worse percentage than Kentucky, the Wildcats still shot just 66.7% from the strike.

Same with the turnovers & giving up offensive rebounds, Kentucky can't afford to also give up easy points to great teams as the season continues. Again, it's something that can be fixed. Luckily for them, they'll have a month or so to get it together before they take on the likes of UCLA, Louisville and then SEC play.

Play was sloppy from both teams as each could have played much better. For the Cats, this will seem more as a learning experience than a detrimental loss. Though a win would have been sweet, fighting as hard as they did against a much more experienced team down the stretch is certainly a moral victory.

Kentucky will travel back home as they take on the Eastern Tennessee State Buccaneers Friday night. Tip-off is set for 7 P.M. EDT at Rupp Arena.

For more information on the Wildcats, check back at ASeaOfBlue.com or on Twitter with @ASeaOfBlue & @MonJorgan.