The Kentucky Wildcats’ easier opponents are behind them, as they will now have a much tougher schedule going forward. They got that started with UNC Greensboro in Rupp.
UNCG’s best player, Francis Alonz, came into this one averaging 19 points a game and can fill up the scoreboard.
Right from the tip, it was evident that UNCG was not intimidated by the stage and jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead before a Keldon Johnson three.
Alonzo scored the first 11 points for UNCG and the Cats found themselves trailing 13-11 at the first media timeout.
Kentucky dug themselves in a hole but battled back to take a 29-22 lead with just under 7 minutes remaining in the half, and it felt as if Kentucky would start to pull away.
However, UNCG didn’t go away as they battled back quick and were able to take the lead and go into halftime with a 40-37 lead over the Cats.
Kentucky looked like a different team after the break as they had a much better defensive performance and held Alonzo to just 3 points in the half.
The energy was much better, and as the game came to a close, the Cats stepped up. They took the lead 58-57 with just over 8 minutes to play. The final 13 minutes of this game was all Kentucky, as they finished on a 28-6 run to pull away from a very talented UNCG team and win 78-61.
Don’t be shocked if we see this UNCG team show up on our screens on Selection Sunday.
Thoughts on the game
Two guys sparked the Cats
In the second half, with the Cats playing better but couldn’t get that extra push to pull away, two guys answered the bell: Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson.
Both guys finished with a double-double as Travis had 22 points, 12 rebounds, and Johnson finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The plays those guys made to spark this team were huge. Travis’ ability to knock down the three ball makes defenders honor that shot, and he blew right by for a dunk.
Reid Travis show and go slam. pic.twitter.com/yeUwUe9tAp— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 1, 2018
On back to back possessions, Johnson was in attack mode as he soared to two emphatic dunks. Notice how Travis sealed off his guy, allowing Johnson to have the wide-open lane.
Keldon Johnson baseline hammer. pic.twitter.com/0wSkbOTsPV— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 1, 2018
Keldon Johnson has arrived to slam everything now. pic.twitter.com/gOO75uR9Ld— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 1, 2018
Tyler Herro was very good
Even though he was struggling to make his shots at the start of the game, he was doing other things very well.
He has been a very good rebounder all season and continues to hustle on the glass. However, in this one he was also playing solid defense, even when he wasn’t scoring.
Herro did a good job in the second half on whoever he was matched up with and was hustling the whole time, proving that defense is all about effort, and he gave that today.
He eventually got his shot going late when it mattered the most and finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and a huge block.
Tyler Herro rejection. pic.twitter.com/sodGJhZCBy— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 1, 2018
Ashton Hagans made big strides
Coming into the season, I think almost everyone expected Hagans to be the starting PG this season, but early struggles allowed Immanuel Quickley to take the starting job early.
In this one, Hagans did a lot of good things including the way he handled the offense. I think he is finally getting a feel for what a Calipari PG needs to do, and he showed signs of that.
Although he didn’t fill the stat sheet, he was outstanding on the defensive end of the floor and came up with 3 steals and a block. His ability to disrupt the opponents is why he will have to be on the floor this season.
However, I believe the offense will eventually come for the freshman as he gives glimpses of it.
Ashton Hagans coast to coast and-1. pic.twitter.com/fLxKDuiEaX— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 1, 2018
What is wrong with PJ Washington?
After a slow start to the season, PJ had about 2 or 3 straight games where he was a superstar. Now, he is back to the way he was early on.
He isn’t dominating the opposing players like expected and is a turnover machine. He has moments where he looks really good and closed this one out in good fashion, so hopefully that sparks something in him.
We all know that PJ is an excellent player, and once he gets it going, look out!
Now, here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 7-1 on the season, winning its seventh in a row, all by double digits.
- UNCG is 7-2, with both losses coming on the road against Southeastern Conference opponents (the Spartans lost a close one at LSU).
- This was the first game between the schools in men’s basketball.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats have a stretch of five straight Saturday games, beginning Dec. 8 vs. Seton Hall in the Citi Hoops Classic, played in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Game time is noon and it will be televised on Fox.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Reid Travis and PJ Washington for the fourth time this season. This lineup is now 4-0.
- Francis Alonso scored UNCG’s first 11 points – including a trio of 3-pointers – as the Spartans built an 11-7 lead.
- Trailing 17-13, UK assembled a 10-0 run to give the Wildcats their first lead of the day.
- Trailing 35-29, UNCG finished the half on an 11-2 run and the Spartans went to intermission ahead 40-37.
- Alonso led all scorers with 19 points – already equaling his season average – while Travis had 10 points for the Wildcats.
- Entering today’s game, UK had lost its last six games when trailing at halftime, dating back to last year’s game at Missouri.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky opened the second stanza with Ashton Hagans, Herro, Johnson, Travis and Washington.
- Early in the half, UNCG stretched the lead to five at 47-42 and 53-48.
- UK crept back in the game, retaking the lead 56-55 on a driving layup and one by Hagans.
- At 8:30, UK regained the lead for good at 58-57 on a driving dunk by Travis. Johnson followed with six straight points, including a pair of driving baseline thunderdunks, to cap an 8-0 run and make it 64-57.
- All totaled, over the last 13 minutes, UK closed the game with a 28-6 run.
- Averaging 87.6 points per game entering the game, UNCG was limited to a season-low 61 today.
- UNCG scored only six points in the final 13 minutes of the game.
- Under Coach John Calipari, UK is 157-7 (.957) when limiting the opponent to 63 or fewer points.
- Kentucky won the rebounding 46-30, the seventh straight game winning the glass.
- UK has a plus-16.8 rebound margin for the season and leads the nation in that stat.
- The Wildcats blocked four shots today. UK has rejected at least four opponent shots in every game this season.
- UK shot 70.8 percent at the free-throw line today (17 of 24) and has made at least 70 percent in all but one game this season.
- Two Wildcats, Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson, notched double-doubles today. The last time two Cats doubled was Nov. 23, 2016, when De’Aaron Fox and Wenyen Gabriel did so vs. Cleveland State.
- The win marked the 50th consecutive home victory over an unranked AP poll nonconference opponent.
- UK is now 230-38 under John Calipari against unranked competition.
- Kentucky is now 10-5 as a No. 10-ranked team under Calipari.
- UK improved to 240-5 (.980) under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points at any point in the game.
- Kentucky has won 10 in a row at Rupp Arena, dating back to last season.
- UK closed a seven-game homestand.
- Reid Travis had his first double-double of the season with 22 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. It is the 27th of his career, counting his years at Stanford.
- 22 points matched his season high and this was his first double-figure rebounding game as a Wildcat.
- Tyler Herro hit for 18 points, matching his season high.
- Made his first 13 free throws of the season before a miss in the second half.
- Despite incurring an apparent sprained ankle in the first half, Keldon Johnson returned in the second half and picked up his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
- He also had a double-double earlier this season vs. North Dakota.
- Ashton Hagans had five points and game highs with three assists and three steals. He played superlative defense on UNCG’s Francis Alonso in the second half, helping limit the Spartan star to one lone basket in the second frame.
- Calipari is now 282-65 at UK.
- Calipari has a 727-205 all-time on-court record.
- He is now 15 wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the second most victories by a UK head coach in program history.