The Kentucky Wildcats showed improvement after their loss to Richmond on Sunday, but ultimately feel to the Kansas Jayhawks late Tuesday night 65-62. The game was anything but beautiful, as both teams missed a ton of shots and turned the ball over often.
The Cats were led in points by BJ Boston and Davion Mintz with 12 points, while nine guys found their way into the scorebook. The real standout for the Cats was Isaiah Jackson, who put up some crazy numbers in the paint with seven points, 12 rebounds, and eight (!) blocks. Despite losing two games in a row, this team continues to show a lot of promise and a high ceiling. But there are a few things you need to know about Tuesday’s matchup.
As badly as Kentucky played on offense, they looked fantastic at times on defense. The Wildcats blocked 12 shots (eight by Isaiah Jackson!), had seven steals, and held Kansas to shooting less than 30% from the floor.
The length of this team created some real problems for Kansas, especially around the basket. As they continue to develop their communication and rotations, this is going to be one of Kentucky’s best defensive team in several years. There was a bit of letdown in the second half, but that was mostly due to foul trouble.
When the Wildcats run their offense through Olivier Sarr, it resembles an organized offense with a plan. When they do absolutely anything else, it looks like chaos. There was a lot of one-on-one basketball on the offensive end for Kentucky. The Wildcats turned the ball over 16 times. And there was really no flow to anything they did outside of the transition game. I am sure most of this will improve with time, but it is hard to watch in the interim.
Geez. The last two games have looked just like Kentucky’s loss to West Virginia in 2010. Brick after brick was thrown up from the perimeter, with the Wildcats shooting 15% (!) from deep.
No matter how good the defense is, and even if the guys learn how to share the ball, you are not going to win in today’s game without shooters behind the three-point line. The only two options are two give more minutes to the guys that can shoot (Dontaie Allen and...Davion Mintz?) or teach the rest of the team to shoot. Either way, improvement in this area needs to be a priority.
There was a lot of buzz coming from the program around Isaiah Jackson heading into the season. So far, I would say every bit of it has been true. He flies all over the court, blocks shots, can defend any position, and has some sneaky good offensive skills.
We have not seen a player in Lexington protect the rim like Jackson since Willie Cauley-Stein. He also has the potential to produce some highlight dunks like Willie as well. And he has been doing all of this with a busted ankle. Sign me up for as much Isaiah Jackson as we can get this season.
Point Guard Problem
Devin Askew reclassified to come to Lexington a year early. I think an announcer may have said that at some point. He is obviously skilled. He has a soft mid-range jumper, he sees the floor well, and he is very athletic. However, he has not handled the pressure of opposing defenses well.
Davion Mintz, on the other hand, has looked pretty good handling the ball and running the offense. He even hit an illusive three-pointer on Tuesday. And it seemed that every time Kentucky went on a run, Mintz was in the game.
Mintz has the look of a confident veteran. Askew has looked somewhat rattled at times. Is his ceiling higher than that of Mintz? Probably. But it will be an interesting balancing act as John Calipari tries to bring Askew along while relying on Mintz to settle this group of youngsters down.