The Kentucky Wildcats were back on the court as they faced off with Virginia Military Institute, who came into Rupp Arena back in 2008 and knocked off a Billy Gillispie coached team.
Right out of the gate, VMI was lights out from three. Which it doesn’t matter how good or bad a team is when an opponent walks into Rupp they automatically become knockdown three-point shooters and that led to VMI having an 18-16 lead at the under 12 media timeout.
Each team battled back and forth and with just under 8 minutes remaining in the half, VMI found themselves in a 24-24 tie with the No. 10 team in the country.
However, from that point on, Kentucky turned it up on the defensive end of the floor and were able to get out in transition and quickly went on a run to get some separation on the scoreboard and carried that into a 48-34 halftime lead over VMI.
After halftime, Kentucky pushed the lead to 56-40 by the first media timeout, but this game was far from over.
VMI carried their hot shooting night into the second half as they set the record for most threes by an opponent in Rupp Arena with 19. With just over 10 minutes left in the game they had cut the score back to a single digit deficit, 65-56.
Kentucky kept pounding it inside to PJ Washington who went to work on the VMI defense and pushed it back to an 83-73 lead at the under 4 timeout.
However, VMI wouldn’t quit and cut back into the lead, but the big men for the Cats proved to be too much, as Kentucky came away with the 92-82 victory.
Thoughts on the game
PJ Washington was a beast
After the slow start to the season, PJ Washington had his first really solid game of the season last time out against North Dakota. He backed that up with another great performance on Sunday.
PJ finished with 19 points, 18 rebounds, and 3 assists to lock up his first double-double of the season. Down the stretch, Cal kept calling PJ’s number in the post and time after time he delivered with a big basket just as VMI was making a run.
This was the PJ that we expected to see out of the gate this season, so it is great for this team to see him starting to play at such a high level.
Quade Green was excellent
In the Duke game, Green was arguably the worst player on the floor for the Cats and looked completely lost. However, in the last few games he has been one of the bright spots for this team and made huge plays in the North Dakota game with the team struggling at times.
He showed up big again and is earning more playing time from the struggling freshmen. He had 17 points, 2 assists, 2 steals and grabbed 3 big rebounds over taller opponents proving that rebounding is all about effort and he has the effort necessary.
Defense is still an issue
After the way Duke was able to expose our poor defensive performance, a lot of people were worried about how the defense would be this season. After two games where the defense seemed to be improving, they reverted in this one and looked awful on the defensive end of the floor.
I grant you that some of the threes VMI hit were contested and deep, that happens. However, a lot of VMI’s shots were wide open due to the lack of rotations by the Cats and their inability to defend the pick and roll at all. Poor defense led to VMI setting a new Rupp record with 19 made threes.
Salute to Bubba Parham
Not too often does an opposing player come into Rupp Arena and completely steal the show like Parham did tonight. However, it has happened in the past and I give our fanbase a ton of credit for recognizing when a player has a special performance and congratulates him on that performance.
Bubba Parham dropped 35 points on 10/16 shooting from three and really gave the Cats fits all night trying to slow him down. This will be a performance that Bubba and this fanbase remembers forever. So, I have to tip my hat to him on a great performance.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky improves to 3-1 on the season, while VMI falls to 3-2.
- The Wildcats lead the series with the Keydets by a 6-3 margin with tonight’s win.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats will host Winthrop on Wednesday for the third of the four-game Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase. That game is slated for a 1 p.m. tip on the SEC Network.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and EJ Montgomery for the first time this season.
- It marked the first start of Montgomery’s career.
- Johnson scored UK’s first points of the game on a 3-pointer from the corner after the Cats displayed great ball movement. It’s the third time he’s scored the opening points for UK and the first off a 3-pointer.
- At the first media timeout, UK led 8-6 in large part to an 8-3 edge on the boards.
- VMI got hot from long range scoring five consecutive buckets off 3-pointers to take an 18-16 lead with 12:25 to go.
- Back-to-back possessions where the Cats got free throws from Quickley and Quade Green gave the lead back to the Cats at 20-18 with 10:34 to go.
- Reid Travis knocked down free throws on consecutive offensive possessions to lift UK to a 28-24 lead with 6:46 to play.
- A momentum-changing sequence began with steal from Green which resulted in a fast-break layup from Washington. On the ensuing possession by VMI, Ashton Hagans was disruptive and forced a turnover in the backcourt. Travis got an offensive rebound and put it in to push UK’s edge to 38-29, marking its largest of the half, with 3:36 remaining.
- Herro assisted a run-out dunk for Montgomery to lift Kentucky to a 48-34 lead with 12.4 seconds remaining equaling the team’s biggest lead of the half for the intermission score.
- Washington nearly had a double-double in the opening half alone with 10 points and nine rebounds.
- Travis led the team with 12 first-half points to couple with four boards.
- As a team, UK corralled 14 offensive boards which was more than VMI accounted in all (11). Travis and Washington had nine of the 14.
- Montgomery and Hagans led the way defensively. Montgomery had three first-half swats and Hagans had a pair steals. Both of those totals were career-best marks in the first stanza alone.
- Kentucky was 15 of 18 (83.3) from the free-throw line in the half.
- UK assisted on nine of its 15 made baskets in the stanza for a 60-percent rate.
- Every player who checked in for the Cats scored at least two points.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky started Hagans, Johnson, Quickley, Montgomery and Washington to begin the second half.
- Johnson scored UK’s first four points of the half increasing UK’s lead to 15 less than two minutes into the frame.
- Listed as questionable to return with an eye injury at halftime, Travis, wearing protective eyewear, reentered the game just three minutes into the half and promptly scored a bucket.
- Green drained a 3-pointer and then swiped a pass on the ensuring VMI possession that resulted in a Herro fast break dunk to increase UK’s lead to 17 midway through the second half with 13:14 to play.
- VMI utilized a 12-2 run over 2:55 of game clock to pull to within nine at 67-58 with 9:15 to go. Washington generated a traditional three-point play off another offensive rebound to snap the spurt.
- The Keydets would not go away and trimmed the lead to seven with 4:38 to play.
- VMI’s Bubba Parham drained his 10th 3-pointer of the night to pull the visitors to within six with 1:37 to play.
- Green calmly sank a 3-pointer on the offensive end to get it back to a double-digit lead at 11 with under a minute to go.
- VMI hit 12 3-pointers in the second half at a 54.5 percent rate.
- The Keydets outscored the Cats 48-44 in the second half.
- Kentucky was 14 of 17 from the line (82.4 percent) to help put the game away.
- Kentucky won the game despite VMI hitting 19 3-pointers in the game for a 50 percent rate.
- It’s the most 3-pointers ever made in a game against Kentucky in its history.
- Parham knocked down 10 of the Keydet’s 19 3-pointers. That’s the second most for a single player against the Cats. Only Corey Allmond (11) from Sam Houston State on Nov. 19, 2009 has hit more in a game against Kentucky.
- Parham scored a game-high 35 points. It’s the most points the Cats have given up in a game and in Rupp Arena since Texas A&M’s Elston Turner scored 40 on Jan. 12, 2013.
- The win marked the 46th consecutive home win over an unranked AP poll nonconference opponent.
- UK is now 226-38 under John Calipari against unranked competition.
- UK is now 6-5 as an Associated Press No. 10-ranked team under Calipari.
- UK improved to 236-5 (.979) under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points at any point in the game.
- Kentucky continues to earn a lot of free throws and is averaging 32.5 attempts per game and making an average of 25.
- The Cats sunk 29 of 35 (82.9 percent) in tonight’s win. That’s tied for the ninth-most makes in a single game under Calipari.
- It’s the most makes in a game since hitting 29 against Illinois State on Nov. 30, 2015.
- Kentucky outrebounded VMI by a plus-21 margin. UK has outrebounded each of its last three opponents by 21 or more.
- Kentucky is plus-79 on the boards for the season for an average of 19.8 a game.
- Kentucky’s bench outscored the Keydets 50-9. Travis and Green combined for 39 off the bench.
- UK won points in the paint 42-14 and second-chance points 23-3.
- One game after scoring a career-high points, PJ Washington produced his fourth career double-double with 19 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
- It’s the third-most rebounds in a single game under Calipari. Teammate Nick Richards had 19 against Southern Illinois earlier this season and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had the same number against Louisville on Dec. 31, 2011.
- The double-double is the second of the season for a UK player. Keldon Johnson had the first against North Dakota on Wednesday.
- Seven of Washington’s rebounds came on the offensive end.
- Reid Travis came off the bench for the first time since Stanford played Miami in the NIT championship game on April 4, 2015 during his freshman season.
- It snapped a streak of 73 consecutive starts. He had started 73 consecutive games prior to tonight.
- He led the Wildcats in scoring for the first time this season with 22 points.
- That matches his season high that he also achieved against Duke.
- He hit a season-high 10 free throws.
- Quade Green posted 17 points and added a pair of assists and two steals.
- He’s charted two or more steals in back-to-back games after swiping a career-high three against North Dakota.
- The 17 points is a season high and the most since he scored 18 against Ole Miss on Feb. 28, 2018.
- Ashton Hagans had the most complete game of his young UK career. He logged five points, a game-high four assists, two blocks and two steals.
- The four assists matches a career high, which he also set against Duke.
- The two blocks and the two steals are both career bests.
- The five points is a career high.
- He also played a career-high 21 minutes.
- Calipari is now 278-65 at UK.
- Calipari has a 723-205 all-time on-court record.
- He is now 19 wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the second-most victories by a UK head coach in program history.