Sunday night basketball in the Bluegrass called for a matchup between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Virginia Military Institute Keydets at Rupp Arena. After an early tip-off, the Wildcats pulled away in the first half to lead 48-34 at halftime.
In the second half, it turned into a bigger shootout as Bubba Parham was unconscious for VMI. Kentucky led by 19 at one point but saw it trimmed to six late, but they held on for the 92-82 win.
Travis Plays a Grown Man’s Game
Reid Travis brings forth a stature many college basketball players simply can’t. On Sunday night, his 6’8, 238 pound frame held down the fort inside Rupp Arena’s painted area.
Aside from the team’s season opener, of which Travis scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds, the big man had his coming out party in front of his home crowd.
In the first half, Travis led the way with 12 points and four rebounds despite exiting early with a face injury.
Travis made his return in the second half to finish with 22 points on just eight shot attempts while also grabbing six rebounds. The graduate transfer not only showed just how tough he is but his consistent improvement in head coach John Calipari’s offense, too.
Life In The Paint
As the Wildcats didn’t do much from behind the arc on Sunday night (shot 5/14), the team did find sound success in the painted area.
In fact, 42 of Kentucky’s points (aside from made free throws) came inside the painted area. The Wildcats also grabbed 18 offensive rebounds (43 total) while the Keydets grabbed just 24 total rebounds. PJ Washington nearly matched VMI’s total with 18 of his own.
With such a talented front court, this should be the strength of Kentucky’s offense moving forward. However, when the Wildcats catch fire from behind the arc, they’ll be nearly impossible to defend.
Who Will Step Up?
We’re just four games into the season, however there has yet to be a solidified “best” guard on the team. While small forward Keldon Johnson has been consistently the team’s best player, guards Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Quade Green & Tyler Herro have been all over the map.
Calipari has shifted his starting lineup multiple times, interchanging the look of his backcourt. During his tenure at Kentucky, the head coach has been known for his abundance of exceptional point guards. Will that be the case this season?
Only time will tell, but when the game got into crunch time, Quade Green did step up and make several big shots to preserve the win. He was fearless as he drilled clutch jumper after clutch jumper.
Green is making it clear he needs to be on the floor in crunch time.
Where Are The Students?
Rupp Arena is considered as one of the best environments college basketball has to offer. However, that has been far from the case this season.
Last Wednesday, the home crowd appeared to be more decimated than ever in recent history.
Less than 30 minutes to tip here at Rupp Arena & there’s not much of a crowd #BBN pic.twitter.com/MuyFZQ6CCb— John Morgan Francis (@MonJorgan) November 15, 2018
On Sunday, most fans filled in right before tip-off but the famously known “Eruption Zone” was yet again left more than half-empty. Wednesday night’s weather certainly effected the turnout, but Sunday night’s game was without such obstacles.
So why such little support from UK students?
Less than 10 minutes to tip-off & many seats remain empty. #BBN pic.twitter.com/kNVc6GFHoj— John Morgan Francis (@MonJorgan) November 18, 2018
Hagans Finding His Role
With Immanuel Quickley and Quade Green beginning to separate themselves, Ashton Hagans has yet to find his role with this team, but we saw a glimpse of what it could be against VMI. Hagans was a defensive spark off the bench with multiple blocks and steals. He even hit a smooth jumper but didn’t try to force his offense.
More importantly, Hagans was much more clean with the ball and helped keep the offense running when he was in. If he continues to make strides like we saw tonight, it’s not out of the question that he gets back into the starting lineup, but more likely, his best role is a spark off the bench.
Looking ahead, Kentucky has a quick turnaround as they play host to Winthrop on Wednesday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 1 P.M. EDT.