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Kentucky edges Utah Valley: 6 things to know and postgame banter

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The Cats weren’t perfect, but they bounced back.

Tyrese Maxey Greg Goins - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Utah Valley Wolverines Monday night by a score of 82-74.

Kentucky didn’t exactly look overpowering, but they nonetheless went into the half up 35-27.

This same sentiment continued in the second half, despite UK almost pulling away, but the Wolverines got hot from deep and got to within a point in the final minutes.

Regardless, a win is a win and that’s what Kentucky got tonight.

Next up, the Cats will take on the Mt. St. Mary’s Mountaineers on Friday night.

Immanuel Quickley and EJ Montgomery were both OUT

I know UK was playing Utah Valley tonight, but it’s never easy when you have two starters out.

Montgomery was out for his third straight game with an ankle injury. Quickley missed with a chest injury he apparently suffered over the weekend.

Montgomery’s development is definitely being stalled with the missed time. That’s not good for Kentucky long term.

As for Quickley, he’s been UK’s most consistent offensive threat to date. With how bad the offense has been with him in, it really struggled without him.

Hopefully, both guys get healed up and are back in the rotation sooner rather than later.

He’s not perfect, but Nick Richards is a solid player

Richards has gotten his fair share of grief over the last two plus years, but he looks much improved this season.

He’s never going to be the one-and-done star many thought he could be when he came in, but he is improving and it’s apparent.

Richards has asserted himself on the offensive end of the floor, while protecting the rim on defense. Yes, he misses bunny after bunny, just like everyone else right now, but he looks confident and he’s playing hard.

He’s not perfect, but Richards has become a solid presence in the paint this season.

The Cats shoot free throws well

If there’s one positive thing among all the other negatives we’ve seen, it’s that the Cats can shoot free throws.

That’s a rare quality in Lexington under Cal, and it’s something that should be appreciated. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing, UK can shoot the ball from the free throw stripe. And Richards has been a huge part of that.

The problem tends to be that they can’t really score from anywhere else on the floor, but you take what you can get on the offensive end for the Cats right now.

Tyrese Maxey is an excellent rebounder

This is actually something Coach Cal has struggled with as a coach at Kentucky. He has uber-athletic guards that will put up 10 rebounds one game and zero the next.

This inconsistency has frustrated Cal to no end. Maxey might be changing that.

So far, he’s looked like he’s making a concerted effort to hit the glass. It’s a conscious decision to get to the ball.

Seeing as this may be a weakness for the Cats, anybody going after the ball is a good thing for UK. But this is especially true when it’s a guard because it gets the break going faster.

Quickley is solid in this area as well, but just watch Maxey as he looks to find the ball every single time.

The offense struggles to get buckets

Against the Michigan State Spartans, it’s one thing to struggle a bit on the offensive end. They’re a veteran team that’s good on defense. Then, UK looked excellent versus the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.

However, the last two games, Kentucky has really struggled to find an offensive identity. But this problem didn’t just start over the last week. We saw long offensive droughts in both exhibition games.

The good news is that some of it looks fixable.

Many Cats are missing bunnies around the rim, as mentioned above. That’s a fixable problem. Couple that with the way UK shoots free throws and they should be able to score in bunches simply attacking the basket.

The biggest problem might not be fixable. And that’s that UK cannot shoot from the outside. Maxey saved them against the Spartans, but other than that, a team that was named by Cal as his best three-point shooting team is sitting close to last in the country in that category.

The shots will start to fall for Johnny Juzang and Nate Sestina. Maxey will be inconsistent all season long, but he’ll catch fire at times. The concern is I’m not really sure who else can consistently be an outside threat.

Only time will tell, but this is something that could haunt the Cats all season long.

The effort was there

It might not have been the prettiest game at times, but the players looked like they were really working out there.

Against MSU and EKU, effort and hustle wasn’t a question. That changed last week against the Evansville Purple Aces.

Tonight, effort and hustle wasn’t the issue. They struggled at times on both ends of the floor, but it wasn’t due to a lack of trying.

If the Cats are trying to be good, it’ll come because they have the talent to be really, really good. There are a few holes here and there, but their talent is Final Four caliber.

Hopefully, tonight was a move in the right direction because in the end, the Cats bounced back.

They won’t perfect, but we all feel a lot better right now than we did last Tuesday.

The pieces will start come together as the season moves along. Improvement is the key right now and we saw that tonight.

Go Cats!