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Big Men Problems: What’s wrong with PJ and Reid?

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It’s been a rough couple of games for the Wildcats’ frontcourt.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky is 3-1 in their last four games, but it hasn’t been because of the play of their two starting big men. Both Reid Travis and PJ Washington have been in offensive slumps which have made for significant struggles for the Kentucky offense.

Washington and Travis each only have one double-digit scoring game each in the last four games, as Washington went for 15 and Travis went for 12 in Kentucky’s loss to Alabama on January 5th.

But other than that, neither has scored more than Washington’s nine against Texas A&M.

Before their win over Louisville on December 29th, Kentucky scored at least 80 points in all but three of their previous games. They have not hit the 80-point mark since their December 22nd win over UNC, and the offensive struggles of the starting big men have played a part in it.

Washington and Travis’s struggles have forced the team to rely on the three-point shot. Luckily, Kentucky has shown flashes of being a great three-point shooting team, but going out and constantly draining threes is hard to do.

In Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt, the Wildcats saw first hand what can happen if Travis and Washington struggle like this for the rest of the season. Vanderbilt played a zone that made it challenging for Kentucky to score outside the arc. The Cats went 4-16 from downtown, and their top three-point shooter, Tyler Herro, did not make one three, and the team scored a season-low 56 points.

Travis was held to three points, while Washington scored just five. Despite Travis and Washington not looking entirely like themselves, John Calipari doesn’t feel like they’re to blame for their lack of scoring. The coach feels the guards need to do a better job of feeding the post.

“We weren’t looking to them,” Cal said following the Vanderbilt game. “I couldn’t get the guards — look, when you’re playing against a zone, and the ball moves, the first look you have is to the post, and if he’s open, you throw it. We were looking back at the guard that threw us the ball.”

Despite Calipari putting a chunk of the blame on not feeding the post, there’s no doubting the two big men are struggling even when they are getting their hands on the ball.

Since scoring a career-high 29 points vs. Seton Hall, Washington is averaging just 8.7 ppg. He’s also hit just nine of his last 22 shots (41%).

Travis has been slightly better, hitting 15 of his last 33 shots (45.5%), but he also has just 11 combined points over his last two games. Travis also has seven turnovers over his last four games, as athletic bigs continue to give him fits in the paint.

The good news is Travis is staying upbeat and not getting down on himself.

“I’d like to be playing a little better, finishing better around the rim, but as far as the process and things like that—kind of expecting (this) and the way I want my game going along, I think it’s all part of the journey,” Travis said Monday. “It’s been a little up and down the last couple games, but by no means discouraged or anything like that. It’s been good for me to see things on film, to play against some of these teams in conference play. I’m encouraged by that fact, that I’m getting to see some film on myself and continue to just get better every day.”

They’ll have a chance to get back on track against Georgia, but if they don’t Coach Calipari may have some decisions to make. After Georgia, Kentucky will battle three ranked teams in a row in Auburn, Mississippi State, and Kansas.

EJ Montgomery has shown flashes of greatness all season, and Nick Richards has played better almost every night. If Washington and Travis continue to be liabilities on the offensive end, there’s a chance we see both Richards and Montgomery playing more minutes in what may be Kentucky’s toughest three-game stretch of the season.

It’s time for Washington and Travis to be the leaders everyone expected them to be and to start picking up their teammates by putting the ball in the bucket.