Kentucky was a bit jet-lagged in this one getting off to an extremely slow start. They fell behind by 12 points late in the first half, which was actually their biggest deficit of the season to date. They went into the break down 35-31, but that was only after an 8-0 run before the half.
That largest deficit of the season increased in the second half to 17 points. And Kentucky couldn’t recover, despite a furious run that put them ahead briefly in the final minutes.
Next up, the Cats will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes for a second straight game in Sin City.
Nate Sestina returns
Sestina’s been out the last three games due to a fractured wrist, but that changed tonight. He quickly returned to action in this one.
Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery have played well in Sestina’s absence, but the grad transfer’s veteran presence is invaluable.
However, the time out has allowed the other two to gain some confidence on the court. That will be integral in the long term. Sestina isn’t built to take on a Reid Travis type of role. But he is built to be a leader and energy guy off the bench.
We missed Nate, but his absence might have been a blessing in disguise. Now that he’s back, we just have to hope Nick and, especially, EJ can be consistent.
Bill Walton is...something else
I’m not sure how many of you have stayed up late to watch PAC-12 after dark, but if you haven’t, you saw tonight what you’ve been missing.
Listen, a lot of people absolutely hate Walton on ESPN, but I love him. He’s hilarious. Yes, he babbles like an idiot about things all over the place throughout the entire broadcast, but he does understand the game. And he slips in nuggets from time to time that proves just that.
But with all that being said, I thought it’d be fun to highlight some of the best things Walton said tonight.
Let’s start with my personal favorite. Walton pleaded that the referees stop calling fouls because this is a good basketball game. He didn’t ask that the referees call less fouls, he wanted no more fouls called the rest of the game. That’s funny.
He also made an absolutely ridiculous comment about loving virgins. I mean he literally said, “I love the virgins.”
He also kept doing this extremely annoying “Utes call.” He’d basically sound like he was a roadrunner running up and down the court imitating a Ute I suppose.
And finally, Walton refuses to call Jay Bilas by his real name. I’m not sure if he dislikes him, or it’s just a running joke between the two, but it’s funny. He will on call him Jake Bilas, even after being corrected.
Walton might be a stoner, or whatever, and a lot of people dislike listening to him during broadcasts. But in my opinion, he’s hilarious. Why so serious? It’s supposed to be fun.
Tyrese Maxey found his shot
After being virtually nonexistent on the offensive end outside of two games this year, Maxey finally bounced back.
It was only a matter of time before Maxey found his shot, but it was hard to watch while he was attempting to do so. He would force bad shot after bad shot, which resulted in brick after brick.
He finally got it together tonight. He displayed a good floater/midrange game, even if the three-ball still wasn’t falling. Couple that with his playmaking ability and his willingness to attack the bucket, and you can see that the game is starting to slow down for the star freshman.
Kentucky is struggling offensively right now and Maxey is a big reason why. His return to form is imperative for this team to have any kind of success. Tonight was a good step in the right direction.
Johnny Juzang is just not very good right now
Juzang is supposed to be a senior in high school. I get it. But so was Ashton Hagans last year, as well as countless other players that haven’t looked half as bad as Juzang.
His dad made a comment the other day that regardless of how this season goes, his development at Kentucky is better than it would have been in high school.
That’s probably true. But it also doesn’t mean that the five-star guard was ready for the jump.
I was high on Juzang before the season. I thought he had the potential to be one of UK’s best scorers and possibly a Tyler Herro replacement.
Now, it looks like a third year of Jemarl Baker would have been a better option. However, I hope that Juzang hangs around for a few years. It’s imperative for his development and I think he can be good with time.
He’s simply being forced into a role that he’s frankly not ready for at the moment.
The Cats can hit from midrange, but the rest of the offense is concerning
Kentucky has multiple guys that can shoot from midrange. Immanuel Quickley, Keion Brooks, Richards and Montgomery are all lights-out. The Cats can also shoot free throws at an excellent rate.
It’s strange, though, because UK clearly can’t shoot from deep. Usually, a midrange stroke and a good free throw percentage are indicative of players’ ability to shoot, period. That isn’t the case with Kentucky so far.
But they are really good at shooting from everywhere besides the three-point line. And that’s important, too. They really should play to this strength more often.
The offense is really struggling right now because they can’t stretch the floor. The midrange game can at least alleviate this concern a bit.
Kentucky isn’t very good right now. It’s actually pretty hard to watch.
I’m just not sure what else to say. I trust John Calipari, but things aren’t looking good.
Let’s hope the Cats figure it out before taking on two top-five teams in the next 10 days.