Both teams got off to a bit of a slow first half, but it wasn’t too slow for UK as they went into the break with a 32-24 lead. That lead extended to 12 in the second half, but not for long as eight fouls were called on UK in less than six minutes to start the second period.
In the end, it didn’t matter as Kentucky got the HUGE win!
Next up, SEC play will begin for the Cats as they take on the Missouri Tigers next Saturday afternoon.
New starting lineup
Coach Cal switched up the starting five again. This time it was Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, Keion Brooks, Jr., EJ Montgomery, and Nick Richards.
I figured one of Brooks or Kahlil Whitney would start to guard Jordan Nwora, but it probably would have been better at the four considering the Cards start a guy that’s 6-5 at that position.
I’m not sure why EJ keeps getting run at this point. It’s probably a confidence thing with hopes of breakout, like Cal did with Richards his freshman season, but UK’s best five doesn’t include EJ at this point in time.
I’d like to see him go with Hagans, Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, Brooks, and Richards. I also wouldn’t be mad to see Nate Sestina out there to spread the floor, but he’s such a defensive liability, it’s a tough call.
Rupp Arena was rocking
So far in 2019, you could hear a pen drop in the arena. Not today. The place was absolutely rocking at all times. It didn’t stop.
With one of the biggest arenas and most loyal fanbases in college basketball, it’d be nice to see this every time out, regardless of opponent.
It makes it that much more fun for the fans and the players when Rupp is like this. Shoutout to the BBN for this one.
Fouls were aplenty
It seems every year that the whistleblowers get happy for this one because the fouls were certainly aplenty. It was absolutely terrible.
The worst part about it is the inconsistency. Sometimes, guys would push and shove and hack with no call. Other times, guys would breathe too heavy on another player and it’d be a foul.
College basketball officiating has reached a peak of terribleness in recent years and today was no different. For two defensive-minded and offensively-challenged teams, the foul calls definitely didn’t help the flow of the game.
I just really cannot express enough how awful college basketball officiating is. I’ll say it 10 more times. Something has to be done.
We all knew coming into this one that Kentucky and Louisville were solid on defense, so it’s no surprise that this was a defensive slugfest.
Not only are both teams good defensively, but as mentioned above, they both struggle on the offensive end. That meant this one was guaranteed to be a low-scoring affair and that it was.
Both teams forced the other to take shots late in the shot clock and slowed them down in transition. There weren’t a ton of open looks and free throws were at a minimum.
Guard play was the difference
What wins games in March besides luck? Guards. And Kentucky has plenty of them.
Hagans, Maxey, and Quickley can be the driving force behind the Cats come March Madness. They definitely did their best today.
Hagans has become a do-it-all point guard, while Maxey can score in bunches and Quickley spreads the floor. All three are excellent defensively.
With not much of a post presence, at least not consistently, Kentucky’s guards could give them a legitimate chance to be a title contender in a few months.
Keion Brooks, Jr...period
Brooks was phenomenal in this one in a way that won’t show up in the box score. You won’t notice how well of a game he played solely by looking at the stats.
Brooks was instrumental to Kentucky’s success today. He was given the assignment of guarding Nwora, a national player of the year candidate, and he didn’t flinch.
He was in Nwora’s grill for 40 minutes and didn’t let up. Like I said, you won’t see it in the box score, but Kentucky does not win this game without the incredible defense from Brooks.
Maxey was cooking
It’s true: Maxey loves the big stage.
After an unbelievable showing in his debut against the Michigan State Spartans, Maxey has been relatively quiet over the last month and a half. That changed today.
Maxey was all over the place on the offensive end. He was running back and forth looking for open shots. He was driving and sometimes pulling up from the midrange.
It was an impressive showing from the freshman to say the least. Now, let’s just hope for some consistency, even when the three-pointers aren’t falling.
What a game. What a win for the Cats!
It’s a clean sweep for Kentucky for the second year in a row, defeating the Cards in both football and basketball.
How nice it is to be big brother and own this state.