The Kentucky Wildcats were back in action against North Dakota trying to continue to grow and get better as a team. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and this team took another step forward Wednesday night.
Right out of the gate, it was evident that the Cats were focused and had an intensity about them that has been missing since the trip to the Bahamas.
Although North Dakota kept it close for part of the first half, the Cats picked up the intensity on the defensive side of the ball and took a 27-16 lead into the under 12 timeout.
The Cats were able to end the half strong with good improvements on defense and a lot better offensive execution, and that allowed them to take a 46-25 lead into the locker room.
After the break, the Cats picked up right where they left off, pushing their lead to 57-32 at the first media timeout, and with 10 minutes left in the game the lead grew to 68-38.
Kentucky looked much improved throughout this one and started to show what they can be as they rolled to a 96-58 victory.
Thoughts on the game
PJ Washington was outstanding
PJ didn’t get off to the best start through the first two games of the season. However, in this one, he finally showed what we all were expecting to see from him this season, as he finished with 25 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block on 9/13 shooting.
What stood out the most was his three-point shooting as he was 4/5 from behind the line and he had a good-looking jump shot to go with it. If he is able to do that consistently throughout the season, then the rest of the country needs to lookout.
Tyler Herro’s shooting woes come to an end
During the trip to the Bahamas, Herro was the MVP of the trip with his scoring output and he shot the ball extremely well the entire trip.
However, through the first two games his shooting hasn’t been up to par with his ability and tonight he finally had a good shooting night going 7/12 from the field (1/2 from three) for 18 points.
He also had a much better performance on the defensive end of the court as he didn’t allow all of the straight-line drives to the rim and came up with 5 steals on the night. A much-needed performance from the freshman.
The Cats dominated the glass
We all know that rebounding well will win you a lot of games and the Cats showed their rebounding dominance in this one as they outrebounded North Dakota 45-15. This comes after the Cats beat Southern Illinois 48-19 on the boards.
If they are able to continue to take care of the boards, that will go a long way to helping them figure this out and get in their groove as the season continues. It’s clear they have enough size to control games on the boards, which is helping make up for their other defensive issues early on.
Reid Travis is a force
Travis was a beast during his time at Stanford so seeing him bring that to Lexington isn’t a shocker, but it is fun watching him go to work.
Tonight, he had 11 points and 7 rebounds, but his impact is greater than that stat line. He creates havoc on both ends of the floor and will get a lot of opponents in foul trouble this season which will help this team win a lot of games.
Travis also knocked down another three, as he continues to become more of a threat there. Teams will have to start respecting him, and that will open up the paint more.
The Cats will be in action again on Sunday afternoon when they take on VMI at 6:00 PM on the SEC Network.
Here is a look at the postgame notes following this win, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Both teams are 2-1 on the season.
- This was the first meeting between the teams.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats will host Virginia Military Institute on Sunday for the second of the four-game Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase. That game is slated for a 6 p.m. tip on the SEC Network.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Reid Travis for the second game in a row.
- The teams traded scores early, and after two ties and five lead changes, UK held a 17-16 lead seven minutes into the contest.
- At that point, UK took control with a 15-0 run for a 32-16 lead.
- The Wildcats finished the half with a 7-0 spurt for a 46-25 score, also representing the team’s largest lead of the opening period.
- Six Wildcats scored in the first half. Buoyed by a career-high two 3-pointers, P.J. Washington led the scoring with 10 points.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky opened the second stanza with Quickley, Herro, Johnson, Travis and Richards.
- A 10-0 spurt early in the half pushed the score to 60-32.
- With 13:32 left, a North Dakota player missed two free throws, winning free Chick-fil-A for all in attendance!
- UK led by as many as 38 points, coming at the final score of 96-58.
- It was UK’s best shooting night of the young season, making 53.2 percent from the field, 46.2 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent at the free-throw line.
- UK dominated the rebounding, 45-15, leading to a 16-0 advantage in second-chance points.
- All five starters scored in double figures. The last time five Cats scratched for double digits was Feb. 28 vs. Ole Miss.
- With a win tonight, Kentucky has now notched a win against teams from all 50 states.
- North Dakota was the lone state from which the Wildcats had never played an opponent.
- North Dakota is one of five states that UK has played only one opponent, the other four being Delaware, New Mexico, South Dakota and Vermont.
- Tennessee – not Kentucky – is the state that Kentucky has played more games, won more contests and dropped more matchups against than any other state because of Southeastern Conference rivals Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
- Connecticut is the only state (3-4) that UK has a losing record against.
- The win marked the 45th consecutive home win over an unranked AP poll nonconference opponent.
- UK is now 225-38 under John Calipari against unranked competition.
- UK is now 5-5 as a No. 10-ranked team under Calipari.
- UK improved to 235-5 (.979) under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points at any point in the game.
- The Wildcats are now 154-7 (.957) under Calipari’s direction when limiting the opponent to 63 points or fewer.
- Kentucky continues to earn a lot of free throws and is averaging 31.7 attempts per game.
- It was 25 for 25 tonight as No. 25 P.J. Washington had a career-high 25 points.
- Included was a career-high for 3-pointers as he made 4-of-5 from long range.
- Had the big night despite playing just 17 minutes.
- Keldon Johnson notched Kentucky’s first double-double of the season with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
- He’s the lone Wildcat to score in double figures in all three games this season.
- Tyler Herro scored 18 points while pilfering five steals.
- Five steals is only one short of the most in the Calipari. The last Wildcat with five was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the 2018 NCAA Tournament vs. Davidson.
- Immanuel Quickley tallied 12 points and added four assists.
- Reid Travis completed the double-figure scoring with 11 points while contributing seven rebounds.
- Quade Green had six points and distributed a game-high five assists.
- Calipari is now 277-65 at UK.
- Calipari has a 722-205 all-time on-court record.
- He is now 20 wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the most victories by a UK head coach in program history.
Here’s a look at the update season stats: