The Kentucky Wildcats faced the biggest deficit they have ever seen in Rupp Arena on Saturday. After trailing 48-26 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the half, the Wildcats made an unbelievable comeback before missing a buzzer beater and ultimately falling 64-63.
Despite really struggling early, Kentucky showed improvement in several major problem areas. Even though they had averaged 19.3 turnovers per game in their last three outings, they only gave away 11 turnovers to Notre Dame. The Wildcats also had more assists (14) than turnovers, sharing the ball better than we have seen as of late.
The Wildcats were led by Olivier Sarr with 22 points, but got solid scoring contributions from BJ Boston (14) and Terrence Clarke (14) as well. Perhaps most importantly, Devin Askew and Davion Mintz only had two turnovers between the two of them for the game. All in all, losing sucks, but improvement is improvement and the Cats seem to have improved since losing to Georgia Tech last week.
The Kentucky Wildcats showed flashes of excellence on Saturday, but they also showed how bad things can be if no improvement is made. The one constant throughout the game was the play of Olivier Sarr. He had eight of the Wildcats’ first nine points, and finished the game with 22 points and 7 rebounds. Although he missed a contested game-winner at the buzzer, he is today’s MVP.
Sarr provided some much-needed consistency, especially on the offensive end against the Irish. He scored around the basket, looked smooth with his mid-range jumper, and even hit a huge shot from the top of the key as the offense started to open up.
Sarr’s experience and skill in the paint is something we have not seen in Lexington in several years. For a program that has produced DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Bam Adebayo, Kentucky has not had an elite talent down low in far too long.
Even though he has certainly had collegiate success before now, Sarr seems primed to come into his own over the course of the season potentially turning himself into a first round draft pick. The Wildcats are better when the offense runs through him, and he took advantage of his opportunities on Saturday.