The Kentucky Wildcats took the floor for an early afternoon game against Winthrop.
Right from the tip, the Cats offense looked much improved from what we have seen in the first four games.
Yes, the Cats have been scoring a lot of points, but they have looked out of sync offensively with a lot of turnovers and bad shots. In this one, they looked like they had a much better feel for the offense, but the turnovers still persisted in the first half, as they accumulated 11 through the first 20 minutes.
The Cats’ hot start allowed them to jump out to a quick 14-8 lead forcing the Eagles to take a timeout.
The Kentucky defense, although improved, still has some work to do, as the Eagles started to get some open looks and were able to hang around.
At the under 8 timeout, the Cats held a 36-23 lead and were able to maintain a double-digit lead and head into the halftime locker room with a 51-37 lead.
After the break, the Cats came out with a high intensity and were playing excellent defense for the first several minutes, as they used that defense to extend the lead to 62-40 at the first media timeout.
However, as the half continued, the defensive intensity faded, and they allowed the Eagles to chip away at the lead and get it all the way down to 13 before they were able to close it out and come away with the 87-74 win.
Thoughts on the game
The offense was much better
While the point totals have been high, the offense has looked bad early on this season. Nothing like they looked on the trip to the Bahamas when they were shooting lights out.
However, that offense showed itself in this one as the Cats were executing well on that end of the floor and the spacing on the floor was excellent which opens everything up and allows them to do what they want.
They finished 31/55 (56.4%) from the field which is their best shooting performance of the season. Cal must be pleased with the offensive performance and hopefully that continues going forward.
Tyler Herro looked more comfortable
In the Bahamas, Herro was our best player on the offensive end of the floor, as he led Kentucky in scoring on that trip. So far this season, he has struggled hitting shots, and his shot selection hasn’t been the best.
Wednesday, that was not the case.
He finished the game with 15 points and was taking good quality shots and making them. We know how good of a shooter he is, so it is nice to see shots falling for him.
Even though he was scoring well, he was also getting his teammates involved as he finished with a team high 7 assists. A great performance by a guy that needed it.
Perimeter defense is still lacking
This one doesn’t make much sense. Our team is loaded with long, athletic players and the defensive struggles should not be a thing.
Last time out a record 19 threes were hit by the opposing team and instead of coming out and defending the three better, they were still late to arrive on close outs and gave up a lot of open looks as Winthrop made 13 threes and shot over 40% in the process.
Cats still have work to do on this end of the floor.
Once again, PJ Washington dominates
PJ has put together a string of excellent performances after his slow start to 2018-19, and a game after putting up 19 points and 18 rebounds, he goes for another double-double.
He finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds and showed his playmaking skills as he had the second most assists on the team with 4 behind Herro’s 7. However, he was also making his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor as he came up with 3 steals and a block.
Now, here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 4-1 on the season, winning its fourth in a row, while Winthrop is now 2-3
- UK is now 3-0 all-time vs. Winthrop, with all three games having been played in Lexington.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats will host Tennessee State on Friday for the final of the four-game Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase. That game is slated for a 7 p.m. tip on the SEC Network.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Nick Richards. It was Richards’ first start of the season.
- After a dunk by Washington on the first possession of the game, Winthrop’s Josh Ferguson nailed a 3-pointer for the visitors’ only lead of the contest.
- Johnson hit a couple of 3s early, already surpassing his career high, in staking the Wildcats to a lead they did not relinquish.
- UK had runs of 8-0, 6-0 and 6-0 in the opening period, building a 51-37 lead at halftime. The 51 points are UK’s highest-scoring half of the season.
- All nine Wildcats who played in the first half scored, paced by 13 points and eight rebounds by Washington.
- UK kept Winthrop off the offensive glass in the first half. The last time the Wildcats shut out a team in the offensive rebound category for a half was the first half vs. Mississippi State on Jan. 12, 2016.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky opened the second stanza with the same lineup.
- UK gradually pushed the lead to as many as 26 points at 68-42.
- Winthrop rallied to within 13 points on two occasions in the final two minutes, including the final score of 87-74.
- Kentucky shot a season-high 56.4 percent, making 31 of 55 from the field.
- The efficiency was spurred by good ball movement as UK had a season-high 20 assists.
- UK made a season-high seven 3-pointers.
- Kentucky made 75 percent at the free-throw line. The Wildcats have made at least 70 percent in all five games this season.
- Kentucky won the rebounding 37-22, the fourth straight game winning the glass.
- UK has a plus-18.8 rebound margin through the first five games of the season.
- UK did a good job getting the ball to the basket, winning points in the paint 42-24.
- Kentucky also did a good job getting down the court, winning fast-break points 14-0.
- This was the second game this season that five Wildcats scored in double figures. They also did vs. North Dakota.
- The win marked the 47th consecutive home win over an unranked Associated Press poll nonconference opponent.
- UK is now 227-38 under John Calipari against unranked competition.
- UK is now 7-5 as the AP No. 10-ranked team under Calipari.
- UK improved to 237-5 (.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 30.8 attempts per game.
- PJ Washington notched a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
- It is his second straight double-double and fifth of his career.
- The last Wildcat with back-to-back double-doubles was Bam Adebayo in the 2017 NCAA Tournament (15 points, 18 rebounds vs. Northern Kentucky on March 17, 2017, and 13 points, 10 rebounds vs. Wichita State on March 19, 2017).
- Washington is averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds over the last three games.
- Keldon Johnson had 13 points and added seven rebounds. It is his fourth double-figure scoring game of the season.
- Tyler Herro scored 15 points and his seven assists are most by a Wildcat this season.
- Nick Richards had an efficient shooting night, making all four field goals and both free throws, for a season-high 10 points in only 12 minutes of action.
- Quade Green netted 11 points, his third double-figure game of the season.
- Calipari is now 279-65 at UK.
- Calipari has a 724-205 all-time on-court record.
- He is now 18 wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the second-most victories by a UK head coach in program history.