The #8 Kentucky Wildcats improved to a record of 9-1 after their win this weekend against the (9-2) Virginia Tech Hokies. The #8 Wildcats knew this would be a tough matchup against a strong outside shooting team, but the Cats kept it close by making 11 3-pointers of their own.
These two teams are both top 25 worthy, and the Hokies proved that by pushing the Cats all night. With both teams going on multiple runs the Cats finished the game out going on theirs ending it 93-86. The Cats did play very well, but like always it wasn’t without some faults. With that being said let’s go over the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Defense- Virginia Tech is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation, and the Wildcats held them to zero outside shots from the 1:48 mark in the 1st half until the 2:40 mark in the 2nd half. This dry spell from the Hokies gave Kentucky the opportunity to take command of the game, and they did not disappoint. This young team held the Hokies to 10 points below their nation-leading average of 96.2 ppg. The Wildcats also forced 19 turnovers leading to 36 points.
- 3-Point Shooting- The Wildcats made a season-high 11 3-pointers, with six separate players making at least one each. In the first half alone the Cats made seven 3-pointers which is the most in a half this season. Coming into this matchup, these young players knew it would be a shootout and they stepped up to the occasion. Hamidou Diallo took Coach Cal’s advice to shoot more deep balls and went 4/7 from 3 for 12 points and made the game-clinching 3-pointer with 50 seconds left.
- Playing Well from Behind- There were multiple instances, 11 lead changes to be exact, where Kentucky had to fight back from going down after just taking the lead and they didn’t lose confidence. For this young team to keep their heads up and push through is a great thing to see. Going into the 2nd half down 47-41 and then coming out hot for a 13-4 to take the lead. The game then got tied up only for UK to go on a 5-0 run and keep that lead for the rest of the game.
- Kevin Knox- Knox showed us again that he is the man that will lead this team in March. He led both team in points (21), 3rd in team rebounds, and 3rd in team assists. Knox shot 46% from FG, 83% from FT, and had two 3-pointers on the night. Knox’s two free throws with 8 seconds left sealed the outcome of the game & cemented his great night.
- Shot Contesting- Although VA Tech was held to 86 points they still shot a very good 58.2% as a team. Their offense having 19 turnovers is the reason Kentucky walked away with a win.
- Rebounding- Kentucky out-rebounded VA Tech 33-30, but with UK being one of the tallest overall teams in the nation they need to be attacking the boards a lot more. A team like the Hokies shouldn’t be right there with them.
- SGA’s Play as a Starter- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, better known as SGA, normally comes off the bench to replace starter Quade Green. With Green’s recent eye injury, SGA was named the starter. SGA had 9 points, 0 rebounds, and one assist in 21 minutes as a starter. Quade Green off the bench, and wearing glasses, went for 17 points, one rebound, and five assists. This performance put a pretty big dent in Shai’s chances to take the starting position from Green permanently & made it hard for the starting good to get going in the 1st half.
- Early Perimeter Defense- Kentucky allowed VA to control the game early on letting them be the aggressors. The held the lead at the end of the half and kept Kentucky below 50% shooting in the 1st for the first time this season. Virginia shot 7/12 from behind the arc in the 1st half, but was then held to just 3/10 in the 2nd.
The Wildcats next game will be against The UCLA Bruins in the CBS Sports Classic. The game will be held on Saturday in New Orleans at the Smoothie King Center at 4 pm.