A Friday night “rebound game” was highly-anticipated following Kentucky’s season-opening blowout loss to the Duke Blue Devils. However, the Wildcats struggled out of the gate in their home opener vs. the Southern Illinois Salukis. In fact, Kentucky somehow led 31-28 at half time despite committing 14 turnovers.
However, behind Quade Green’s second-half surge, Kentucky snuck by Southern Illinois, 71-59, for their first win of the season. Through the 40 minutes of action, here are four things we learned.
Sophomore Nick Richards
Richards didn’t size up well against the much bigger, faster and stronger Zion Williamson. However, his towering build “rebounded” on Friday night in more ways than one. In the first half alone, Richards logged 12 boards while also scoring seven points and blocking two shots without committing a single foul.
In the second half, Reid Travis saw more playing time (two fouls in the first half) but Richards maintained dominance on the inside. He finished the game with eight points, 19 rebounds and three blocks.
Richards has far less basketball experience than anyone else on the team, which indicates he’s just now finding his groove and could continue to grow throughout the season.
Offense Continues to Struggle
The 14 turnovers and 41% shooting in the first half are certainly a cause for concern. Green’s efficient second half showed promise but the team seems to still be far out from an efficient 40 minutes of basketball.
Seeing Quickley become more aggressive scoring the ball, as well as Kentucky’s front court crashing the glass, was ensuring for the time-being.
Chemistry will come as at the season moves along, but Kentucky’s defensive efforts will need to remain stout if their offense continues to prove inconsistent.
Quade Green: The Comeback Kid
Tuesday night’s season opener was un-ideal for Quade Green. After not starting for the second consecutive game to start the year, Green thrust aside any sort of selfishness and led the Wildcats’ in multiple offensive bursts when the team seemed lost.
14 points and three assists for the second year guard should earn him the start when Kentucky next takes the hardwood, as he proved on Friday night that he’s capable of leading a currently disgruntled Kentucky team.
Kentucky’s 1-1 start, with the loss being a blowout and the win coming as a grind, seems discouraging. The Bahamas trip makes the season’s start that much more difficult to stomach. However, title-contending teams aren’t made for November and December. They’re built for January, February and March.
Calipari’s Cats’ have a long season ahead of them with many practices remaining. The roster, from top to bottom, has too much talent to begin to panic about the 2018-2019 season.
Kentucky’s next game will also be at Rupp Arena, as the Wildcats host the North Dakota Fighting Hawks on Wednesday night at 9 P.M. EDT.