What do you get when you add four guards, three forwards, and one center? The answer – at least on a Monday night before Thanksgiving in Lexington is simple.
An undermanned but ready recipe to defeat Albany 86-51. It was good to notch another win in this early season stretch for the Wildcats as they are learning to play with different combinations, even if it was not what was anticipated.
CJ Fredrick is out for the season and the team was looking forward to having his shot as a weapon in the offense. Lance Ware is limping with a bad ankle. Jacob Toppin is still having shoulder trouble. Then it was announced that Davion Mintz was ill. So juggle the ingredients and get ready – it was going to be an interesting night.
The team played sloppy for long stretches and turned the ball over way too much. (15 times) The turnovers were momentum killers and prevented the team from finding a consistent rhythm. Eventually the Cats found the separation and a double double from Oscar Tshiebwe (12 points and 14 boards) along with 20 points from Ty Ty Washington helped to claim the space they team needed to win.
Five players for UK finished in double figures and a needed jolt from Daimion Collins notched another victory in this young season. Coach Calipari gave part of the credit to Collins, “the stetch in the game where we spread the game out…was with Daimion blocking shots, rebounding, dunk, throwing it to the rim. So he did some good stuff today.”
It took some time, but this is the time of year for it to happen. They played, they struggled, they ran and they pressed and the game came back to them. The old man of the team, Kellan Grady has been modeling that for his teammates. Washington noted, “I’m starting to pick up off of him, letting the game come to me. You see, he never forces anything, always is happy for his teammates, even when he is not scoring.”
Grady is another reminder of why this stretch of games is so important. His 4 of 7 shooting included 3 out of 5 from beyond the three-point arc. Tossing in another 3 singles from the free throw line, his 14 points came at just the right time and again proved his steadying influence on this growing team.
So, in spite of the fact that there were some players missing, working around the dynamics of learning to play together as a team, and finding that every team they play is waiting to knock them off, they are managing to win as they move into the holidays.
The Kentucky Wildcats had enough, and it was just what they needed before Thanksgiving.