Despite a disastrous start, the Kentucky Wildcats were able to blow past the Ohio Bobcats on Friday by a score of 77-59.
Make no mistake, this is a good Bobcats squad. Ohio came into this game with a 3-0 record with a solid win over Belmont. It showed early as UK got off to an especially slow start as Ohio jumped out to an early 11-4 lead. Foul trouble, sloppy play, and no defense resulted in a 40-38 halftime lead for Kentucky, and all things considered, that wasn’t bad.
After the break, Kentucky dominated on the defensive end to come away with a big win that doesn’t speak to how highly contested this one was for about 25 minutes. This was a good win.
Next up, the Cats will take on the Albany Great Danes on Monday night in Lexington.
Injury woes continue
The Cats continue to deal with injuries. CJ Fredrick’s already been ruled out for the season after a foot procedure kept him out for the entire preseason, followed by a hamstring tear, which required season-ending surgery.
Jacob Toppin has been dealing with a shoulder injury for a few months now. It looked like he was back after he took home the Big Blue Madness dunk contest crown, but then he didn’t play in any preseason games. He’s now missed the last two games.
Finally, Lance Ware showed up at Madison Square Garden to take on the Duke Blue Devils with a walking boot. He ended up playing, but he’s now missed the last two game along with JT.
UK has depth, which has saved them, but Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins haven't given enough to date to make up for the losses. However, as discussed below, maybe this is a blessing in disguise as Hopkins turned it on in this one.
Brooks was solid
Listen, Keion Brooks had a great stat line tonight. He hit a ton of 15 to 18-footers, but the issue is that he keeps taking...15 to 18-footers. It's a bad shot—quite possibly the worst in basketball. Threes and layups are where the game has gone and Keion just sits in the midrange and shoots, and shoots, and shoots.
I don’t mean to be overly critical, but Keion just isn't the player some hoped him to be in year three. He’s athletic, can rebound (when he looks for rebounds), and he’s got the aforementioned midrange shot. But he’s a skinny ‘tweener, who struggles to guard and gets bullied down low.
For a junior, he makes a lot of poor decisions. TyTy Washington making mistakes is expected. Five turnovers on simply bad plays for Brooks is not expected.
With all that being said, Brooks finally locked in and ended up scoring at a high rate. I like Brooks, and he’s going to severely limit UK in some games this year without a three-point shot or the strength to make a contested layup, but credit where credit is due. Good game, KBJ.
Brooks did go down with an injury in the final seconds, but he was able to get up and shake it off as it appeared it was nothing more than cramps.
Big O foul trouble...leads to a Hopkins showing
Well, we finally learned what Kentucky basketball looks like without Big O. And I have to say, I don't think I've missed a player more.
Obviously, Oscar is the heart and soul of this team, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise that he got into foul trouble to let other guys sink or swim. Tshiebwe picked up two fouls just a minute into the game and missed the rest of the first half. He played in the second half, but it allowed UK to get a look at Bryce Hopkins.
Hopkins has, wrongfully, been played as a three for the majority of this season so far. I’m here to tell you he’s much better with smaller lineup in the game. Hopkins wasn’t perfect, but he's a skilled player and Kentucky just doesn't have anyone else like him.
Oh, and Tshiebwe got double-digit rebounds in the second half alone, in case you were wondering. Win, win.
Finally getting to the free throw line
Surprisingly, Kentucky has been doubled up by their opponents at the free throw line this season. For example, they only drew seven total fouls against Mt. St. Mary’s on Tuesday night.
In this game, they finally got to the free throw line at a solid rate. It still wasn't what we’re used to, but it was a step in the right direction. And honestly, the biggest shocker was that the Cats got the majority of their free throw attempts with their biggest bruiser, Big O, on the bench.
This needs to continue to trend in the right direction for UK to reach their potential.
TyTy showed that star potential
Ohhhhh, man. TyTy Washington is here. One game after playing his best game of the season, the freshman built on that performance with a huge game.
Kentucky is a true superstar away from a potential top-five team, and I think Washington is that guy. Goodness, he was awesome tonight. Of course, he makes the occasional frustrating freshman mistake (usually a stupid turnover), but he was all over the place.
One thing he does that likely gets overlooked is the way he moves his feet on defense. It’s elite. But outside of that, he crashed the glass hard tonight and ran the point very well with Sahvir Wheeler in foul trouble.
Washington finished with a double-double with points and rebounds. He’s finally starting to slow down and figure out the pace of the college game. If Tshiebwe stays out of foul trouble, Wheeler controls the point, and Washington dominates the rest of the game, this team will be really difficult to beat.
Good win. Go Cats!