On Sunday night, Big Blue Nation got their first in-game look at their Kentucky Wildcats.
From the front row of the ERupption Zone, I got an up-close and personal look at this year’s group. The team looks as young as they should in the preseason, but there were moments of brilliance throughout the contest.
We can’t put that much stock into what we saw tonight, but here’s what Kentucky fans should take from the team’s scrimmage.
Kentucky is known for having tons of talent in the paint. We got to see how legitimate a threat the big guys will be from all over the floor. They were very efficient as a group as they shot 48-66 from the field. They also snatched 45 rebounds, with Nick Richards leading the way with 16 total.
Watching PJ Washington and Reid Travis square off in the post was a real treat, as they continuously bullied and strengthened each other. Richards and EJ Montgomery made plays on both ends while Keldon Johnson was all over the court. This group of big men have a chance to be special and will make statements at the rim all year.
No Problems From Three
As I knock on wood, I will proudly say Kentucky looked pretty capable from deep. As a team, they shot 37% from range. The cause has to be the additions of sharpshooters like Tyler Herro and Jemarl Baker along with steady improvement from players like Quade Green.
Washington, Travis, and Johnson stretched the floor as well by shooting 4-7. Those numbers will have plenty of opportunity to rise as the year goes on and it will certainly need to considering how the game is changing. Regardless, fans won’t be begging for a make from three all game long with these guys.
Baker and Montgomery Look Healthy
Now that the injury bug has left EJ and Jemarl alone, they both looked strong in their debuts. Baker, who redshirted after a knee surgery, settled down in his 18 minutes for the Blue team where he scored 9 points while shooting 80% from the field and 50% from three.
Montgomery, who missed the last three games in the Bahamas with back spasms, was one the highlights of the game as he scored 21 points and 8 rebounds while playing in all 40 minutes. With both players healthy, each will be playing a big role this season in their own unique way.
The amount of chatter out on the floor tonight was impressive for a team this early on. Everyone was talking on defense and were genuinely and visibly frustrated whenever their man scored on them. On offense, the players really got after each other and wanted to score every time down. They got visibly frustrated at calls, and there was a competitive buzz as a whole.
They were doing this in what was just scrimmage, and if this is how they practice, they’re developing in that environment daily. If we get this fire from them every time they take the floor, we’re in for a fight from them every time out....and probably some technicals if we’re being honest.
Tyler Herro Can Be The Leading Scorer
Although Johnson and Washington are more complete players and may be more important to this teams overall success, Tyler Herro has the opportunity to lead this group in scoring over the season. What makes this even sillier is that he will likely be coming off the bench. If he continues to show out like this, though, it’ll be hard to see how he won’t crack the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Herro lit Rupp up with 34 points on 12-16 shooting (4-6 from three) as he scored in a variety of ways including finesse layups, transition dunks and deep, contested threes. The combination of his skill and mindset will make him a serious weapon for this group and he’s going to score at a very high rate.
Although he keeps the girls blushing with his looks, he keeps everybody else licking their chops at his unbelievable potential.