Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Cats got off to yet another slow start. It was ugly to say the least.
Kentucky struggled in the first half to get anything going offensively. And on top of that, it seemed like Vanderbilt couldn’t miss. Despite the adversity, UK only trailed 30-28 at halftime in what was their lowest scoring half of the season.
The Commodores came in with a plan to shorten the game and it worked...at least for the first 20 minutes.
The perimeter defense has got to improve for a full game. I feel like that’s been a point of emphasis all season, but it’s getting kind of ridiculous. Teams are coming in confident because they know they can score on Kentucky. That’s part of the reason these slow starts have been so prevalent. Vandy started 4-5 from the three-point line. Something’s got to give.
Immanuel Quickley has continued to improve every game. He’s getting more confident from three and that’s good because this teams needs more shooters. He played extremely well tonight.
Nick Richards put together a few hard fought minutes. He dove on the floor for balls twice. He’s not the best basketball player in the world, but he’s playing hard and that’s all you can ask for.
Tyler Herro couldn’t get it going offensively tonight, but he is a sneaky good rebounder. If he’s not making shots, he has to be able to contribute in other ways. He’s becoming a better passer, but he’s already good at finding the ball.
PJ Washington and Reid Travis continued to struggle. Kentucky has to get production out of their starting big men. Travis is struggling with the athleticism of SEC big men. It’s a different game than PAC-12 basketball, which is taking a bit of time to adjust to. Washington just fails to assert himself. PJ has to stop disappearing. But they both rebounded well, so at least they weren’t completely invisible out there.
Keldon Johnson scored well when he was out there, but he had a difficult time getting into any sort of rhythm. This meant he had a hard time contributing in really any other meaningful way. He made some big shots, though, especially when Kentucky really needed a basket.
Although the defense was poor at the beginning, it finished strong. The Cats locked in and completely shut down the Vandy offense. It was great to see them put together one of their best defensive games of the season. Now, if they could only put together a full 40 minutes.
Next up, the Cats go on the road to face the Georgia Bulldogs. This is probably the easiest stretch UK will have in SEC play, so, hopefully, they finish out strong before going to Auburn.
Ashton Hagans was the easy pick again tonight. Hagans is exactly the type of floor general that Cal loves. He runs the offense and does a little bit of everything.
He continues to torment opposing players on the defensive side of the ball and he’s coming into his own offensively.
What I love the most about Hagans is he doesn’t back down from anyone. He’s not afraid to take on point guards or centers, alike. And I love that tenacity.
Hagans finished with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals. He also shot 7-9 from the field in what was a great all-around performance. He’s still turning the ball over a little too much, but he forces enough turnovers to make up for it.
Remember, Hagans is still supposed to be in high school. He’s still progressing, but he’s only going to continue to get better. And that’s a scary thought for future opponents.