Kentucky had one of their best halves of basketball in the first half against Tennessee, but backed it up with one of their worst halves in the second to go on to lose on the road in Knoxville 76-65.
Going forward this team is going to have to have some improvements in some areas and some individual improvements if they want to be a real contender for the national title come March.
Defense must improve
At times this season this team has played outstanding defense but at other times they have struggled on that end of the floor. In the game against Tennessee, the Vols were able to do anything they wanted whenever they wanted. They pounded it inside for an easy layup or would move the ball around for an open three. Kentucky had no answers for the Tennessee offense.
Tuesday, Texas A&M comes to Rupp and if Kentucky is going to win that game then they must be able to defend down low as A&M has a legit threat down low in Tyler Davis.
When PJ Washington went down with cramps in the Tennessee game we were left without someone that could score in the post and it hurt us drastically. Nick Richards hasn’t developed enough yet to be able to score consistently down low.
With the recent emergence of PJ hitting his stride it will make this team a lot better but if we lose him to an injury like last night we will need someone to step up and do the work down low that PJ has started to provide.
Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo must perform
When you look at this team’s best performances Knox and Diallo have been playing at a high level. Recently Knox has been in a slump and just can’t get his jump shots to drop. He has had several open looks, but something is a little off.
Although he has been struggling he is still averaging 14 points a game and has now started crashing the glass and has now jumped up to averaging 6 rebounds a game. If he can find his groove on offense again he will become a scary player for opposing teams. Knox is such a good player that I believe he will hit his stride sooner rather than later and get back to being a dominant player on the floor.
As for Diallo, he has the flu, so I will cut him some slack for the performance woes. However, when he is playing at a high level this team is hard to beat. If Diallo can get back to what he does best which is driving to the basket and finishing at the rim and remaining under control when he does so this team will have an entirely new identity.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needs to stay aggressive
In the games that Shai was scoring 20 a night he was aggressive and attacked the rim. Against Tennessee he played passive and didn’t have the same urgency that we had seen in the previous 3 games. He needs to stay in the mindset that he can get to the rim and score at will (because he can) and continue to be on of the best players on the floor. Hopefully he just had an off night and aggressive Shai will be back Tuesday night against A&M.
What do you think UK needs to improve on most to become a title contender?