The Kentucky Wildcats are becoming a fun team to watch.
While it remains to see how special they can be come March, they continue to showcase a world of potential that’s only beginning to be tapped.
But against Fort Wayne, we finally saw that potential dominate for much of a 40-minute contest, as the Cats had their best outing of the young season in an 86-67 win.
Here are six takeaways from the fun win heading into the Thanksgiving break.
The start of this game was one of the fastest in recent memory for the Cats. Both teams were red-hot to open the game, as the Cats hit 11 of their first 13 shots, but Fort Wayne hit five three pointers in the first six minutes to keep the Cats from pulling away early.
The Mastodons ended up hitting eight first-half threes but converted just 12-of-32 field goals, while the Cats used a late 9-0 run to take a 45-37 lead into halftime. It marked the second-straight game in which UK scored over 40 first-half points after scoring 41 vs Troy.
The Cats ended up scoring a season-high 86 points but could have easily had more. It’s still a work in progress, but the offense is has improved dramatically since Game 1.
The rise of Nick Richards has been the biggest storyline with UK over the last two games. After an efficient eight-point, eight-board effort vs ETSU, UK made it a point to feature Richards vs Fort Wayne, and he responded with what may end up being one of his best collegiate games.
In the first 23 minutes vs Fort Wayne, Richards had nine boards, two blocks and 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting, an absurd rate for any big man, let alone one that struggled as much as the freshman did over his first four games.
Richards finished the game with 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting and 15 boards for one of the best games we’ve seen from a big man in the John Calipari era. He’s looked like a different player over the last two games, one that could dramatically affect this team’s outlook for the rest of season.
Quade Still Ballin’
Part of the Cats’ offensive improvements have been due to Quade Green establishing himself as the lead guard. While Shai Alexander is still earning minutes, Green is the guy, and he’s becoming this team’s second-best offensive player after Kevin Knox.
Green has been efficient, avoided turnovers (though he did have 3 tonight vs 5 assists) and made good decisions on both ends of the floor. He’s looking more and more like a seasoned veteran as the games roll on, but he still got a ways to go to become a point guard capable of leading a title contender.
One of the last things I was counting on coming into this season was Hamidou Diallo three-pointers. Coming out of prep school, his shot was about as painful to watch as I can remember seeing from a five-star guard coming to UK.
I thought Diallo was more likely to be an elite defender and slasher that could dominate his games with his freakish speed and athleticism. While we’ve seen glimpses of that, we’re also starting to see him become a real threat from deep.
Against Fort Wayne, Diallo hit two big first-half threes that helped give UK a comfortable lead going into halftime. He finished the night 2-of-3 from deep, which doesn’t sound like much, but if he can continue to hit a three or two per game, that will force defenses to guard him on the perimeter.
Then, his potential to become a superstar is through the roof.
If these Cats are to become a special team capable of making a deep run in March, their defense will be the driving force behind it. After letting Fort Wayne hit a barrage of threes and score 37 first-half points, UK put the clamps down in a big way, holding the Mastodons to just eight points through the first 10.5 minutes of the second half.
That allowed the Cats to pull away for a relatively easy win. As the offense becomes more consistent while the defense works out its kinks, this is going to be a scary team as SEC play begins and could be special come March.
Another game, another poor outing from the charity stripe, hitting 15 of 24 attempts. PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel combined to go 5-of-13.
While the Cats at least hit over 50% of their free throws, they still missed far too many to feel good about this area going into December, which presents some difficult matchups with Virginia Tech, UCLA and Louisville.
UK must improve in this area, or they’re going to suffer some painfully-close losses later on.
Now, let’s reminisce over the Cats’ latest performance.