So far this season, the Kentucky Wildcats have been less than impressive, and some fans are beginning to get a little worried. In the 7th game of the year, it is time for them to start putting it together more than what we have seen. A game against 0-7 Monmouth presented the perfect opportunity to turn it up a notch.
Out of the gate, the Cats had a much better effort on the defensive end however, they were giving up way too many rebounds as Monmouth had 7 first half offensive rebounds.
A good offensive start and a pesky Tyler Herro on both ends of the floor allowed the Cats to take a 20-12 lead into the under 12 timeout.
Monmouth would battle back and cut the lead to 22-18 with just under 10 minutes remaining before Kentucky went on a big run to blow this one open and took a 20-point lead, 44-22 into the halftime break.
After halftime, it was more domination for the Cats.
With 10 minutes left in the game, the Cats had built up a 63-34 lead and were playing very well on both ends of the floor.
The hustle was great, and the Cats kept extending the lead which is something we haven’t seen them do so far this season.
A 12-point lead grew into 20 and that grew into 30 and by the end of the game the Cats walked away in a dominating 90-44 victory.
Thoughts on the game
Best defense of the season
The Cats’ effort on the defensive end of the floor has been lacking through the first six games this season, but that wasn’t an issue tonight.
Coming into the game, the Cats have been allowing teams to get a large number of open threes and opponents were ripping the Rupp nets. However, tonight they held Monmouth to 2/16 from outside, a much-improved effort from the start of the year.
Going forward the Cats will need to build on this performance and continue to improve on this end of the floor. Tonight, was better and a good step forward, but more work needs to be done.
Rebounding was lacking
What the Cats made up for in the defensive struggles, they took a step back in the rebounding category. Although they won the battle of the glass 41-29, they gave up 13 offensive rebounds which must have Cal upset.
PJ Washington and Reid Travis combined for 14 boards, so they did well. Even Tyler Herro grabbed eight rebounds. However, those three combined for just three offensive boards, which was the number all Kentucky starters got.
Rebounding hasn’t been an issue all season and I don’t expect this performance to persist, but this was not their best performance on the glass that we have seen and expected.
This is shaping up to be the best free-throw shooting team of the John Calipari era. They turned in another great performance from the charity stripe, hitting 20 free throws and missing just three.
That’s an outstanding 87% rate. Coming into the game, Kentucky was shooting 74.4%, so they managed to improve on that already-high number. Even PJ Washington looks much improved here, as he’s hitting 64.7% this season.
Kentucky has had its ups and downs through the first seven games, but the improved free-throw shooting has kept the offense scoring at a high rate, and it will prove critical when the games get tougher and come down to the wire.
Tyler Herro was excellent
We know just how good of a scorer Herro is, but we were concerned about the other aspects of his game.
Tonight, he showed that he is much more than just a shooter. He finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, and an assist. A great all-around performance from the freshman. The way he was crashing the glass showed just how much effort he gives and his ability to read passing lanes is top notch.
A full 40-minute performance
Earlier in the week we heard Quade Green talk about how this team hasn’t played a complete 40 minutes yet and that needed to change.
They finally did that in this one.
Right from the tip, the Cats were dominant against an opponent that they should dominate. We really hadn’t seen them get a huge lead a keep it but in this one they got the big lead and kept making it bigger till the final buzzer.
Hopefully this is the first of what becomes a habit for these Cats.
Junior Nick Richards?
It’s safe to say Sophomore Nick Richards isn’t quite what we had hoped. After he looked vastly improved in the Bahamas, Richards is back to the same struggles he had as a freshman, which led to his role being diminished as the season wore on.
Against Monmouth, Richards logged just nine minutes, and six of those came in the second half when Kentucky was up 30+ points. That’s a bad sign for his role with this team. He’s clearly fallen behind Reid Travis, PJ Washington and EJ Montgomery, all of whom deserve to be playing 20-25 minutes per game.
That’s making it hard to get Richards on the floor, especially against these small-school teams who play a lot of smaller lineups.
If this keeps up, we could be talking about Junior Nick Richards next offseason.
Here are the updated season stats:
Here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 6-1 on the season, winning its sixth in a row, all by double digits. Monmouth is 0-8.
- UK is now 2-0 vs. Monmouth, with this being the first time the teams have played in Lexington.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats conclude the seven-game home stand Saturday against UNC Greensboro. That game is slated for a 1 p.m. tip on ESPN2.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Reid Travis and PJ Washington for the third time this season. This lineup is now 3-0.
- Tied at six, Herro scored eight straight points, sparking an 11-0 run.
- After Monmouth narrowed the gap to 22-18, UK took control for good with a 10-0 spurt for a 32-18 advantage.
- UK ended the half on a 5-0 run and took 44-22 lead into the locker room.
- All nine Wildcats who played in the first half also hit the scoring column, led by 12 from Herro.
- With Monmouth playing a lot of zone in the first half, UK hit six 3-point shots.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky opened the second stanza with Johnson, Quickley, Herro, Travis and EJ Montgomery.
- Ahead 50-26, a 10-0 run made it 60-26.
- UK added an 11-0 run to make the score 82-37.
- Moments later, UK pushed the lead to 47 points at 86-39. It is UK’s largest lead of the season.
- Kentucky allowed 44 points tonight, a season best for the Wildcats.
- UK is 64-0 under Calipari when limiting the opponent to 55 or fewer points.
- Monmouth’s 27.6 shooting percent is also a season best for the UK defense.
- Kentucky won the rebounding 40-25, the sixth straight game winning the glass.
- UK has a plus-16.9 rebound margin through the first six games of the season.
- Kentucky blocked five shots tonight. UK has rejected at least five opponent shots in every game this season.
- Offensively, UK hit the 90-point mark for the third time this season.
- UK had season highs by making 56.6 percent from the field and 87 percent at the foul line.
- UK’s 10 3-pointers made also is a season best.
- The win marked the 49th consecutive home win over an unranked Associated Press poll nonconference opponent.
- UK is now 229-38 under John Calipari against unranked competition.
- UK is now 9-5 as a No. 10-ranked team under Calipari.
- UK improved to 239-5 (.980) under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points at any point in the game.
- Tyler Herro led a balanced attack with 16 points and shared game-high rebounding honors (with PJ Washington) with eight boards.
- Herro also had five steals, tying his season best.
- Keldon Johnson followed with 15 points, his sixth double-figure game of the season.
- Quade Green tallied 14 points, featuring a career-high four 3-pointers.
- Reid Travis scored 13 points and added six rebounds.
- PJ Washington scored eight points and matched it with eight rebounds, tying Herro for game-high rebounding.
- Calipari is now 281-65 at UK, including 61-6 in the month of November.
- Calipari has a 726-205 all-time on-court record.
- He is now 16 wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the most victories by a UK head coach in program history.