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Kentucky Basketball: Highlights and 5 takeaways from Wildcats’ win over Troy

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Is Brad Calipari earning a role?

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats are now 4-1 after a solid win over Troy.

It was arguably UK’s most complete game of the season, as the Cats dominated on the defensive end while finding enough offense to score a semi-comfortable win.

Here are five more thoughts on win No. 4 for the young and improving Cats.

Brad?

Going into Monday night, Brad Calipari seeing meaningful minutes early in the game was about as likely as Troy winning at Rupp Arena. Yet somehow, Brad was in the game getting playing time just 10 minutes into the first half with UK leading by just 10.

Sure, this is the time to tinker with some different lineups that may be arely, if ever seen as the season wears on, but still, seeing Brad this early in the first half with UK leading only by 10 is very strange.

One thing this does tell me is that the Cats were very much counting on Jemarl Baker to give them minutes this season, and perhaps still are once he returns from knee surgery. Calipari has indicated he wants an extra guard earning minutes, so with Baker out, perhaps Brad will continue to see spot duty here and there.

For what it’s worth, Tai Wynyard also saw early minutes, though that’s happened many times in the past. Brad has never seen relevant minutes until now, so this will be something to monitor going forward.

And in the end, Brad finished with just two minutes of actual game time, but those two minutes in the first half felt like a lot more for a guy who struggles to see the floor in blowouts.

After the game, Calipari explained why he put Brad in so early.

“I said, you know what, Brad’s playing so well in practice. I thought he had a couple of plays he could have taken a shot, and I’m like, ‘we need you shooting.’

“So, can we put him in games? Can he defend and stay on people? He was on [Wesley] Person. He wasn’t supposed to be, but he was and did fine. Person didn’t score on him.

“I may start shoving him in in the first half and giving him an opportunity and seeing what he does, especially if we’re struggling to make baskets.”

There you have it. Brad may actually be earning a role on this team.

3-Ball or Stall

Maybe Brad was in the game because Coach Calipari knew his team can’t shoot for a lick right now. The Cats didn’t hit their first three until Wenyen Gabriel knocked one down with 28 seconds left in the first half.

As you can imagine, not hitting threes led to a lot of offensive stalling in the first half, including a stretch of four minutes without a field goal. That happened again in the second half, as the Cats went over eight minutes without a bucket late in the game, which allowed the Trojans to cut a 21-point lead down to eight.

Turnover Floodgates

The Cats have a lot of work to do in the ball-handling and decision-making department. It looked like they were finally cleaning up the turnover issues in the first half, where the UK committed just four turnovers in 41 possessions.

But the turnovers came flooding in during the second half, as the Cats had six in their first 13 possessions coming out of halftime. They finished the game with 16 turnovers, a number too high if the Cats are going to beat good teams.

Richards’ Growth

Against Kansas, Nick Richards looked like a three-star developmental big with a long journey ahead of him. Just three games later, Richards is already showing great progress on both ends of the floor. He took a major step forward in the rebounding department, grabbing seven boards in his first right minutes of Monday’s contest.

Richards also showed some nice touch around the paint with a couple of nice layups, but it was his overall effort that put a big smile on Calipari’s face.

Tough-Shot Quade

Kevin Knox may be this team’s star, but Quade Green is becoming the go-to guy when UK needs a shot. We saw Green make a host of critical shots in Friday’s win over ETSU, a game that saw the Cats struggle for much of the first half outside of Green.

It was more of the same against Troy. While UK was in better control of this game, Green still made several tough shots to end UK scoring droughts or stop runs by Troy.

What were your big takeaways from the win?