The 10th ranked Kentucky Wildcats continued to gain momentum on this young season as they roll over North Florida 86-52.
The big news to start the night was the last minute change to the starting lineup, as Keion Brooks was sidelined due to an illness. With that change, Daimion Collins received his first start of his young Kentucky career, and he made the most of it as he played arguably his best game of the season thus far.
For most of the half the Cats seemed to have a Thanksgiving-hangover, as it was strictly sloppy basketball for the first 14 minutes of the half. Then the last six minutes of the first half were a different story, as the ‘Cats started to see their shots falling and started to lock down North Florida on the defensive side of the court.
In the second half the ‘Cats continued to turn up the heat as Oscar Tshiebwe rebounded everything, and the Kentucky guards dictated the pace on both ends of the floor.
Kellan Grady showed once again that he is going to be a constant contributor for this team offensively, especially once he gets comfortable earlier in games.
Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware returned tonight, and obviously had some rust to shake off after sitting out for the last several weeks. Both had decent games, but definitely left more to be desired especially without Brooks in the line-up tonight.
The main storyline tonight though needs to be the defense played by the ‘Cats. The Osprey’s came in to the game as one of the top three pointing teams in the country, and this Kentucky defense locked them down.
North Florida shot 22.6 percent (7-31) from three, and only allowed a 33.3 percent field goal percentage overall. If that side of the court can continue to develop, by conference play what was a weakness early in the season, might very well become a strength.
Oscar and TyTy Washington get a ton of the praise as the two stars of this team, for good reason, but Sahvir Wheeler really needs to be in that conversation.
Tonight’s game once again showed just how important Wheeler is to this year’s team.
He finished with 12 points, 14 assists, four rebounds, and also added two steals.
Similar to how important his passing is in this offense, it is his defense that played one of the bigger stories tonight. For this team to get to where they want to go, a solid perimeter defender is a must, and what was once a question mark for this team has finally been answered for good after tonight’s performance. Add in the way he dictates the pace, and you can see why he was named to the preseason All-SEC first team.