The Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Albany Great Danes on Monday night by a score of 86-61.
Kentucky played very well in the first half, except for way too many turnovers. Despite shooting close to 60% in the half, the Cats only led 37-28 due to a slow pace of play and nine turnovers.
After the break, the sloppiness continued. Of course, Kentucky extended their lead, but they never truly pulled away, and it felt like it was a lot closer than the final score. This was probably a game UK just didn't get up for, but they’ve got some things to fix and some tape to watch. There were some good things, though, and we’ll discuss those below.
Next up, the Cats will take on the North Florida Ospreys on Friday night in Lexington.
This has become a regular section in the postgame report, and I have to say, I’m not a fan. As everybody likely already knows, Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware have missed the last two games with injuries. Toppin’s been dealing with a shoulder ailment since September and Ware has been dealing with an ankle injury since at least before the Duke game.
Davion Mintz was added to this report Monday night as he missed the game with an undisclosed illness. Mintz was just coming off his best game of the season, so let’s hope this bug is a short-term one. Kentucky said he was day-to-day prior to the game.
It certainly didn’t help that Dontaie Allen, who had a chance to shine with Mintz out, went 0/5 with more turnovers (1) than points (0).
These Cats are definitely not afraid to get physical. Kentucky has out-rebounded all five of its opponents thus far, including a huge 53-17 edge against the Ohio Bobcats and another big margin Monday night.
Of course, a large part of this is due to Oscar Tshiebwe, but he’s not the only one. The guards, especially, have rebounded very well. While TyTy Washington is the only other Cats to record double-digit rebounds in a game this season (Ohio), Mintz and Sahvir Wheeler have both rebounded well. Keion Brooks has started crashing the glass better of late and Bryce Hopkins is showing that he can use his big frame to grab rebounds, as well.
These guys know their roles
One of the most impressive things about this team is they all seem to know their roles. Wheeler is the distributor. Washington is the playmaker. Kellan Grady is the shooter. Brooks is in charge of the midrange game. And Oscar Tshiebwe is the rebounding monster down low.
Off the bench, Mintz is the spark plug, Ware is the physical hustler, and Toppin locks down the opposing team’s best player. Daimion Collins is a rim-runner and Dontaie Allen is a shooter, while Hopkins is the Swiss Army knife that provides a versatile skillset unlike anyone else on the team.
One thing that Kentucky teams sometimes struggle with is figuring out each individual player’s role. Now, these guys aren't perfect at their role yet, but mostly everyone seems to have bought into what they're being asked to do.
Grady and the bench coming along
For Kentucky to reach their ceiling, they have to get more from Grady and the bench than they have this season. The bench was of course shorter in this one with all the injuries, so UK only had eight scholarship players available, but this was a good test as they were forced into action.
Hopkins and Collins are coming along slowly but surely, although both have showed flashes. Allen is good for about one three-point make per game, but that’s about it, and he really struggled tonight when he had a big opportunity to take advantage of Mintz’s absence. Meanwhile, Grady has been struggling a bit, but he finally started to turn it on in the second half of this one. It was like something just clicked mid-game.
The biggest issue with the lack of production from Grady and the bench is that it forces UK to play their best players for unsustainably long periods. Wheeler, Washington, and Big O can’t play 35 minutes every game, or they’ll be dead by season’s end.
The good news is Grady’s issues seem to be turning around. He’s had to take some time to adjust, but he has been lights out from deep so far this season. As for Collins and Hopkins, they’re freshmen, and Collins is a super raw freshman at that. All three of these guys should continue to progress as the season continues.
All in all, it was another one in the W column for the Cats. They do need to clean it up a bit, but a win’s a win. Go Cats!