It was a wild one in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, but the Kentucky Wildcats fell short to the Duke Blue Devils, 79-71.
In what was an up-and-down matchup between the blue-blood programs, the Cats showed a ton of promise on both ends of the floor, as they went punch for punch with the Blue Devils.
After a solid first half, Kentucky came out clicking on all cylinders to start the second half to take the lead. But then Duke’s talented freshman, Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels, proved to be too much as UK took their foot off the gas, and the rest was history.
Despite the loss, this Kentucky team is going to be quite alright. Now it's time to regroup and get back to Lexington and get back to our winning ways in Rupp Arena.
Here are some quick risers and fallers from Tuesday night’s game:
The ‘Cats finally have their bruiser in the paint. Oscar showed early on that what he might lack in height for the center spot, he makes up for with brute strength and a great IQ.
He finished the game with 17 points on 8/14 shooting, and also added 19 rebounds.
As a transfer from West Virginia, and being coached by Bob Huggins, his teams are always one of the best rebounding teams in the country, especially on the offensive end. That coaching showed up early and often. John Calipari missed having that strong post present last season, and he has found it this season in Oscar.
Another piece that was missing from last season's team was a true point guard. Well, it's pretty clear they have found one, and he might end up being one of the best in the country.
He finished with 16 points and 10 assists, while also having 7 turnovers.
Wheeler showed why he led the league in assists last season as kept threading the needle with one primetime pass after the other. Now it’s pretty clear to see where his turnover issues come from as the pace he plays with is incredibly quick at all times, but without him on this team it could have gotten really ugly.
Pace & Shooting
John Calipari made it known earlier this offseason he wanted this team to play with pace and wanted to shoot the ball from the outside. Well that showed out once again against a solid opponent.
Today’s basketball is all about pace-and-space. Run the floor, shoot the open three or slam it down in transition. This team has adopted this mentality.
After every miss they are pushing in transition, and passing ahead to stay out in front of the defense. Once the chemistry continues to grow, and shooters start to feel comfortable floating to their spot, this team should continue to become even more dangerous in the open floor.
It is no secret that this Kentucky team is lacking in size, in particular height. It came into play some as they went against Mark Williams and Theo John.
As the season continues this is going to be a storyline to follow, especially as the season heats up during conference play and in March. When the ‘Cats play against teams with a taller front-court they will need to rely on the pace of the bigs to out-run their man instead of trying to score over them in the post.
Let me start with this; Collins will end up being one of the key rotation guys come the end of this season, but this was just a little bit much for him to handle physically.
Williams and John are seasoned, strong, gritty post players, while Collins relies on the pace and his athleticism to win out over his opponents. This just wasn't the matchup for him to shine, but it is obvious that his strength could come into play in numerous situations this season, just from his brief period in this game.
TyTy Washington shined in the two exhibition games, but struggled mightily as he tried to force a rhythm, when one just wasn't coming to him.
Washington could very well end up being the best player on this roster come March, but the Big Blue Nation came back down to Earth this time with the expectations for him early in the season.
They happened seemingly every game for UK last season, and this one came at the most inopportune time in the second half when the Cats went cold. That ended up being what ultimately cost them the game.
What made it more painful was a lot of it came with Paolo Banchero out of the game with an injury, though he eventually returned to help Duke finish it off.
Who was your biggest riser/faller? Let us know in the comments section!