The Cats did not lose a step without Reid Travis. Actually, I think they matched up better with Auburn without him.
They came out firing from deep and they were hitting on all cylinders. Thanks to the hot start, UK went into the half with a 45-31 lead over the Tigers.
And they never looked back.
Ashton Hagans found his shooting stroke, along with the rest of the team today. And, man, was it fun to watch. He played excellent. He made a couple flashy moves to get to the basket, on top of knocking down multiple shots from three. He hit two threes, but he would’ve had four if he didn’t have his toe on the line twice.
Tyler Herro played one of his best games in Rupp Arena. He was hot today, which has become a rare occurrence at home. And he also defended Bryce Brown extremely well. Brown loves to just stand in place and dribble between his legs, but Herro was having none of it.
EJ Montgomery got the start today since Travis was out. He struggled on the offensive end, but he defended the paint and rebounded really well. Nick Richards split the extra playing time with Montgomery and played excellent defense. If the two of them can continue to be okay on the offensive end, while providing elite rim protection, Kentucky will be just fine over the next couple weeks without Travis.
Finally, Keldon Johnson was a beast today. And not in the way we’ve become accustomed to. Johnson was an absolute monster on the glass. He didn’t shoot the ball a whole lot, but he had a game-high 17(!) rebounds. That’s one way to replace Travis’ production.
But it wasn’t just that. He also passed the ball really well, which we really haven’t seen him do much of this season. It was a great all-around performance for the freshman forward.
Despite the loss of Reid Travis, this team came together and played lights out. It was one heck of a performance. They never let Auburn even think they had a chance. It was domination from the starting tip until the final horn went off.
I said in our roundtable earlier this week that I was leaning towards a blowout before the Travis injury. I was thinking something like 95-61. But once Travis went down, it seemed unrealistic. And there were too many unknowns, like how the team would respond and who would step up. But we got our answer. And I think we all enjoyed the answer we received.
Next up for the Cats is the Arkansas Razorbacks on Tuesday night, as Kentucky will look to continue to show that they are one of the best teams in the entire country.
PJ Washington continued his insane tear on Saturday, and it was fun to watch. I really thought about giving this to Johnson because he rebounded and played so well, but I just couldn’t.
PJ has made his case for SEC and National Player of the Year at this point. I thought without Travis he might struggle because teams would be able to focus solely on him. That wasn’t the case at all.
He continued to show off his improved, and ridiculous, three-point shooting, while still doing everything else we’ve come to expect.
PJ finished with 24 points and six rebounds, while shooting 9-13 from the floor and 5-8 from deep.
It was yet another excellent performance by this team, and by PJ Washington.