Once again, John Calipari’s big men dominated on the inside. Kentucky captured a 51-37 halftime lead and never looked back, bringing us to four things we learned.
Washington’s Wrath Continues
PJ Washington had a rather quiet first two games of the season. Against both Duke and Southern Illinois, the sophomore was held to just 11 total points. He played a combined 37 minutes and was largely ineffective.
However, since the puzzling start, Washington has scored 25, 19 & 19 points while adding seven, 18 & 11 rebounds. He’s becoming Kentucky’s go-to option in the paint, looking far more comfortable than last year.
As the team’s leader on and off the floor, expect PJ’s sound stretch to become the norm throughout the season. He also looks well on his way to becoming a first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. As good as he’s been lately, he may even sneak into the lottery.
Turnovers Remain An Issue
While the backcourt rotation seems to be an unsolved puzzle, that is still no excuse for the amount of turnovers Kentucky has been prone to giving up this season.
Coming into Wednesday’s game, the Wildcats were tied 221st in the country for coughing up 14.5 possessions per game.
After having 10 at halftime, Kentucky remained sloppy in the second half with nine more to allow the Eagles to make a second-half surge.
While the guards need work, the big culprits here are actually the bigs, as Washington (3), Travis (4) and Richards (2) combined for nine today.
Though they’re already scoring a high amount of points, the quality of Calipari’s offense should increase as the team becomes more familiar with each other.
Herro Leads Calipari’s Backcourt
Though Kentucky sits at 4-1 on the season, anyone who has watched their games knows that the Wildcats’ backcourt has been rather messy.
Ashton Hagans has showed signs of his play-making ability as well as on-ball defense but has yet to efficiently score the ball.
Immanuel Quickley continues to start but has had just two games in double figures. Sophomore Quade Green has efficiently ran the offense but has also yet to start.
Tyler Herro, though, has been the sole starter at shooting guard and also been effective in four of the five games. On Wednesday, specifically, Herro scored 15 points and led the team with seven assists.
Coming into the collegiate league, the scouting report lazered in Herro’s ability to shoot the basketball. However, hardly anyone saw the playmaking ability he showed on Wednesday.
As Herro continues to set up his teammates, expect them to return the favor by looking him around the three-point arc.
Pound The Paint
Herro’s points came mostly outside of the paint, but Kentucky’s bread and butter to start the year has certainly been inside the blue area.
The rotation of EJ Montgomery, Keldon Johnson, Nick Richards, Reid Travis and Washington have dominated their opposition for most of the season.
Before Wednesday’s outing, Kentucky ranked 30th in the country via rebounds per game and 19th in free-throw attempts. They have to keep pounding teams in the paint more and letting the rest of the offense open up with it.
As good as they are here, Washington, Richards, Travis and Montgomery combined for just 24 shots, and several of those came from the perimeter. Against smaller teams, that number should be much higher.
After just two days of rest between Sunday and Wednesday’s games, Kentucky will now have just one day before they take the hardwood once again.
On Friday evening, the Wildcats will host Tennessee State at 7 P.M. EDT