Wednesday night the Cats faced off against a 3-1 Fort Wayne Mastodons team that has a veteran lineup and just last year upset #3 Indiana. This is a game that usually sees the Cats playing sluggish because it is the day before Thanksgiving and they are looking ahead to the holiday the following day.
However, these young Cats came out and put on a second half performance that should have this fan base feeling good as they sit down Thursday to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal. The Cats got the win, 86-67.
The first half showed some of the same problems that we have had all season to this point. Turnovers and allowing open three-point shots. Kentucky struggled taking care of the ball as they gave up 11 first half turnovers. A trend that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
Kentucky came out of the gate shooting the ball better than it has all season. They started the game 10 of 12 from the floor, but Fort Wayne was able to stay in the game because they were able to knock down the wide-open threes that the Kentucky defense was giving them while in man defense.
Fort Wayne made 8 early threes but then was nowhere near as efficient as the half went on finishing the half 8-22 (36%) from deep.
To Cal’s credit, when he saw that man wasn’t working, he switched it up to a zone and after the switch Fort Wayne could not get the same clean looks and therefore started missing shots and Kentucky was able to end the half on a 9-0 run to go into the locker room leading it 45-37.
First-half stat leaders and team stats:
Points: Nick Richards- 10
Rebounds: Nick Richards- 7
Assists: Quade Green- 4
As a team Kentucky shot 19-27 (70%) and outrebounded Fort Wayne 19-7.
I have no idea what Calipari told his team at the half, but whatever it was it worked. The second half saw a completely different Kentucky team on the floor and for the final 25 minutes, using the last 5 minutes of the first half, Kentucky completely dominated the game.
Kentucky took a 45-37 halftime lead and by the first TV timeout stretched it to a 56-42 lead and never looked back. The defense was much improved even when Cal had them playing man to man Fort Wayne wasn’t able to get the clean looks like they had in the first half. However, even though man was finally working Cal went back to the zone and it worked just as well as it did in the first half.
Although Kentucky looked shaky for much of the first half, when they turned it on and showed exactly what this team is capable of, it was impressive to see just how disruptive they can be on defense and how explosive and exciting they can be on offense. The last 25 minutes of this game should make the fan base chill out and realize that this team is going to be fine and continue to get better as the season progresses.
1. Kentucky showed that they still struggle at guarding the three-point line. However, as the game went on that began to get better, but they still have some work to do.
2. Nick Richards showed he is capable of big things with his performance tonight. He showed he has an ability to score, as he shot 9-10 tonight, and was impressive with his rebounding ability.
3. The zone defense is going to be a viable option when Kentucky gets in situations where they are struggling to defend man to man. Their length makes it hard for opposing teams to run their offense. Luckily, Cal has showed in the early season that he is willing to run a zone when it is necessary.
Stat leaders and final team stats:
Points: Nick Richards- 25
Rebounds: Nick Richards- 15
Assists: Quade Green- 5
For the game Kentucky shot 33-55 (60%) while holding Fort Wayne to just 40% shooting. Kentucky was also very impressive on the boards out-rebounding the Mastodons 44-21.
Here are the updated season stats:
Here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky wins its third game in a row in improving to 5-1. Fort Wayne is 3-2.
- This was the first meeting between UK and Fort Wayne in men’s basketball.
- Next for the Wildcats: UK continues the five-game homestand on Sun. Nov. 26 as the Wildcats play host to UIC. Game time is 6 p.m. and it will be televised on the SEC Network.
In the First Half
- Kentucky’s starting lineup featured Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo, PJ Washington, Kevin Knox and Nick Richards for the fifth straight game.
- Both teams came out hot, with Fort Wayne making six of their first 12 3-point tries, and an 8-0 run gave the visitors a 27-23 lead.
- Trailing 37-36, UK held Fort Wayne scoreless over the final 3:50 of the half. The Wildcats finished with a 9-0 spurt and took a 45-37 lead into intermission.
- There were eight lead changes in the first half.
- UK shot 70.4 percent in the first half, the Wildcats’ best half since shooting 75.9 percent vs. Stony Brook on March 17, 2016.
- Fort Wayne had eight 3-pointers in the first half, most that UK has allowed in a half this season.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky held Fort Wayne scoreless for the first 2:21 of the second half, extending the scoreless streak to 6:11. In the meantime the Wildcats got the first two baskets and two free throws of the second half, extending the run to 15-0 and the lead 51-37.
- UK added runs of 8-0 and 9-0 in the second half.
- UK extended the lead to 30 points at 79-49, the Wildcats’ largest advantage of the season.
- Kentucky’s 86 points is a season high for the Wildcats.
- UK led by as many as 30 points in the game and is 219-4 in the John Calipari era in games that the Wildcats have led by at least 10 points.
- UK shot exactly 60 percent from the field. This is the 10th time in the Calipari era that UK has shot at least 60 percent.
- UK won the rebounding, 44-21, the fifth consecutive game that the Wildcats won or tied the boardwork. The +23 margin ties for the 11th best game of the Calipari era. UK has had a +23 rebounding margin in two games in a row.
- UK’s board dominance led to a 16-4 lead in second-chance points and a 44-22 edge in points in the paint. It’s also a season high for points in the paint.
- Two Wildcats pulled down double-digit rebounds, first time that has happened this season.
- UK had a season high 24 bench points, winning that stat 24-10.
- Nick Richards totaled 25 points and 15 rebounds, his first double-double as a Wildcat.
- It’s UK’s first 20-10 game since Bam Adebayo totaled 22 points and 15 rebounds vs. Missouri on Feb. 21, 2017.
- It’s UK’s first 25-15 game since Terrence Jones went for 27 and 17 against Notre Dame on Dec. 8, 2010.
- Kevin Knox tallied 11 points and has scored double figures in all six games this season.
- Quade Green had 11 points and led the Wildcats in assists with five.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had an all-around floor game with 11 points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals.
- Wenyen Gabriel almost got a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Coach John Calipari
- Calipari is now 254-54 at Kentucky.
- Calipari is 139-6 at Rupp Arena.
- Calipari has a 699-194 all-time on-court record.
- Calipari is 1-0 vs. Fort Wayne in his career.