The Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers Friday night by a score of 95-72.
Keion Brooks and TyTy Washington lead the way with 18 points each, followed by Davion Mintz with 12. Oscar Tshiebwe had a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards while limited with a hip injury.
Kentucky didn’t look perfect, but they did show their potential in the first exhibition match of the year. The defense struggled at time, but the offense looked versatile and dynamic.
Next up, the Cats will host Miles College before they kick off the regular season against the Duke Blue Devils.
This is the worst thing I’m going to write about tonight, I promise. CJ Fredrick and Jacob Toppin both participated in Big Blue Madness, but both were inactive in the Blue-White Game and against KWC.
Fredrick had lower leg surgery in July and while coach Cal classified it as minor, he’s still not been cleared for contact. The good news is Fredrick returned to practice weeks ago, but he still isn't quite ready for game action yet.
Toppin, on the other hand, suffered a minor shoulder injury. He won the Big Blue Madness dunk contest, but he also still isn't cleared for full contact. Hopefully, both guys are back at full strength for the game against the Blue Devils.
Finally, Oscar Tshiebwe dominated the Blue-White Game with 25 points and 21 rebounds, but he was a bit banged up heading into Friday’s exhibition. Big O played, but he was limited with what Cal described as a hip injury. It shouldn't be too serious based on how many minutes he played against KWC, but it’s still notable nonetheless.
With Tshiebwe limited, we saw extensive minutes from Lance Ware, and the sophomore played well thanks to his hustle and fight in the paint.
Brooks is ready to make a big jump
Keion Brooks, Jr. didn't exactly jump off the page in the Blue-White Game, but he looked like an experience veteran ready to make a big jump in tonight’s game. Brooks was aggressive on the offensive end, and his three-point shot looked better than any time I’ve seen in the past.
We all know Brooks has the athleticism, work ethic and experience to make some noise this year, but he hadn't yet shown it. The younger guys all say any time they have questions, they immediately go to KBJ, which is an invaluable attribute to have.
With that being said, if he plays like he did tonight, especially the way he shot the ball, Kentucky’s ceiling is significantly higher.
Offense looking good while defense is catching up
Calipari always say he teaches defense first and the offense comes later. This has led us to become accustomed to offensively-challenged teams that dominate the paint, the boards, and the defensive end.
However, that doesn't appear to be the case with this team. The Cats look like they have an extremely versatile group of guys that complement each other well. We’re used to seeing a new crop of freshmen, but after last season, Cal decided experience is imperative.
He responded by addressing every single need individually—a leader and great passer with Sahvir Wheeler, shooting with Fredrick, rebounding and physicality with Big O, and a pure scorer in Kellan Grady. This team has all the pieces to be special.
Defensively, Kentucky did some good things, but they gave up way too many open looks to a team smaller and slower than them while also getting beat on a lot of ball-fakes. Allowing a Division II team to score 30+ points in both halves is not ideal, though part of it came from the fast pace both teams played with.
This is a three-point shooting team
12 of UK’s first 19 shot attempts were three-pointers. Yes, you read that right. This team has shooters, and they aren't afraid to pull the trigger. Heck, even human pogo stick, Daimion Collins, pulled up in transition to shoot a three ball, albeit ill-advised.
The long balls slowed down a bit after the first 10 minutes of play, but it shows Kentucky’s willingness to let it fly. That’s something we’ve yet to see from a Calipari coached team, but it was a harsh criticism that the Cats faced after last season.
TyTy is going to be special
Oh, man...TyTy Washington is going to be a special player. Kentucky lucked out big time when Nolan Hickman decommitted and TyTy decommitted from Creighton around the same time. The rest is history.
TyTy has shown flashes in the preseason, but in his first game action, he looked like a lottery pick. The freshman point guard can score from anywhere on the court. He’s got an excellent feel for the game as he’s able to find open guys, while also occasionally pulling up for a floater in the lane. Next thing you know, Wheeler finds him wide open, and he splashes a three.
Enjoy this young man while you can because we’re only going to see a few short months of him.
The Cats looked solid in their first exhibition game of the year. Duke can’t come soon enough.