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Kentucky beats Transylvania: 4 things to know and postgame banter

It was a strong start with room for improvement.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

In their first exhibition game of the fall, the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Transylvania Pioneers 94-66. The Wildcats looked incredible at times, but also showed that there is a ways to go to reach their potential.

Kentucky had a balanced scoring attack with seven players in double figures. Reid Travis led the way with 10 rebounds to go with his 12 points, and Immanuel Quickley had a team high four assists.

Play big

With so much talent on this team, many have speculated about how John Calipari would find enough minutes for everyone, especially the big guys. How would Calipari be able to balance playing time between PJ Washington, Nick Richards, Reid Travis, and EJ Montgomery while also finding the right combinations of those guys in the paint?

Calipari found an answer that few people considered: start three of them.

Washington, Reid, and Richards were all in the starting lineup alongside Quade Green and Immanuel Quickley. Starting those three in the front court made it easy to get EJ Montgomery in early. And with the way that all four of those guys ran the court on Friday, playing three bigs does not seem to slow this team down.

Play fast

The biggest compliment of this team in the preseason has been their balance. There is talent in the paint and on the perimeter. They seem to be equipped to adjust to any style of play.

Given the choice, though, it seems that these guys want to play fast. Even with the bigger starting lineup, they pushed the ball at every opportunity. With quick passing, smart spacing, and a lot of running this team looked dangerous in transition.

If Friday was any indication of who this team really is, we are all in for a fun season.

Play everyone

While the platoon does not seem to be in play this season, Calipari showed that he is open to mass substitutions. Ashton Hagans entered the game with 16:37 remaining in the first half after Immanuel Quickley picked up his second foul, and the rest of the bench was right behind him.

At the 15:59 mark of the first half, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and EJ Montgomery checked into the game to join Hagans and Reid Travis. Calipari played all nine primary players (Jemarl Baker was inactive to rest his knee) within the first four and a half minutes of the game.

In order for everyone to get minutes, those quick substitutions very well may become the norm.

Play better

So the Cats were not perfect. One area in which Kentucky struggled early is an issue that plagued that year’s team (especially Washington) in the tournament: free throw shooting.

Kentucky shot just 13 for 19 (68.4%) from the free throw line in the first half. It was not just one guy, either. Travis and Washington combined to shoot 56% in the opening period, and considering that they are likely to lead the team in free throw attempts that is a bit concerning. It did improve in the second half and the team finished at 75% from the charity stripe, but there is still work to be done there.

Kentucky only shot 1 for 13 from behind the three point line. With shooters like Tyler Herro, Quade Green, Keldon Johnson, and Immanuel Quickley on the roster you’d have to think this was a fluke.

Even Washington and Travis are capable of knocking down shots from the outside, so the team’s overall poor perimeter shooting was a big surprise. This should not be a big concern for Big Blue Nation...unless these shooting woes continue.

The Cats also struggled defensively, at times. Transylvania got several open looks from behind the three point line and got to the basket way too often. Kentucky’s defenders were regularly beaten off the dribble allowing Transy players to get good looks around the basket and set up teammates for open three pointers. With no player taller than 6’6”, there is no reason the Pioneers should have had 24 points in the paint.

Although there is certainly room for improvement, this was a solid start for the Wildcats.

What did you think about the game?