I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! The Kentucky Wildcats rolled over the North Florida Ospreys on Friday night by a score of 86-52.
Let me know if you’ve heard this before...the Cats got off to a slow start. We’ll talk more about that below, but despite the slow start, UK finally picked it up with about five minutes left in the first half to take a 37-23 lead into the break.
After the half, Kentucky really got things going and never looked back. Five guys scored in double figures. Oscar Tshiebwe put up yet another double-double, as did Sahvir Wheeler with double-digit assists (14). TyTy Washington and Daimion Collins both had excellent games. And Dontaie Allen also reached double figures, despite a not-so-great shooting night from deep.
Next up, the Cats will take on Tony Barbee’s Central Michigan Chippewas team in Lexington on Monday night.
Two return, two sit out
Two Wildcats returned from injury in this one, but two Cats sat out. Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware, who have both missed the last several games returned, but Davion Mintz, who missed last game with a sickness, and Keion Brooks both sat out with undisclosed illnesses.
Obviously, the injury (and sick) bug has not been on UK’s side so far this year. However, there is a bright side, and that’s the fact that this has forced Kentucky to get some guys more playing time than they would normally have.
The downside is that you can see rust on guys like Toppin and Ware, but that’s to be expected. When Collins, who earned his first start with Brooks out, gains more confidence and experience, the sky is the limit. Bryce Hopkins is probably a two-year player, but he’s also received increased PT with all these guys out, and he made the most of that in this game.
It’ll be awesome when we can finally see this team at full strength. It won’t be quite as awesome for Coach Cal because the minutes will be tough to figure out.
Too much food for Thanksgiving
I knew I wasn't the only one who ate too much on Thanksgiving. Well, that’s what I’m assuming happened here as the Cats got off to a very slow, sloppy start. They struggled with turnovers for the second consecutive game, including nine in the first half alone. They also missed their first 10 (!) three-point attempts.
Yeah, that’s pretty bad.
But it’s okay because Kentucky finally picked it up. I’m sure it’s difficult chemistry-wise as they haven't had the full team together basically at all. As soon as the guys get used to playing with Brooks, he sits out and Toppin returns. As soon as they get used to Collins as the back-up center, he slides down to the four and Ware’s the back-up center.
I’ll give them a break, especially coming off the holiday, but they’ve got to start attacking games with more energy from the jump. Maybe, Mrs. Cal just fed them too many of her all-too-famous brownies.
Cats not in the Christmas spirit, yet
I know Thanksgiving just ended, but it’s officially Christmas season. Apparently, Kentucky didn't get the memo. Christmas is supposed to be about giving, but all UK did Friday night was take from North Florida.
The Cats had eight steals in the first half alone, led by Wheeler and Washington. Those two guys were all over the place wreaking havoc, along with the rest of the team.
This defense gets out of position a bit too often, but they have a great complement of players.
Tshiebwe is the best rebounder in the country.
Collins has the Slender Man arms made for blocking shots. Toppin can guard any team’s best player.
Ware is the brute that hustles nonstop.
Wheeler and Washington wreak havoc on opposing guards, although I should point out that Wheeler is more of a pest, while TyTy appears to be an elite defender in these early stages.
Collins is a human highlight-reel
Collins’ ceiling is the roof. This kid is still extremely raw, but he shows flashes each and every game of his incredible athleticism. He usually has at least one play every game that just makes you say, “How’d he do that?”
He’s either going to have a put-back dunk, alley pop, crazy blocked shot, or just the number one play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. Friday night’s big highlight was just a little old dunk over...his own teammate and the biggest guy on the team. Just take a look.
Of course, because he’s a freshman, he still has those moments where you say, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” That’s to be expected, though, and you can tell he's really growing as a player, game in and game out.
Kentucky is a legitimate National Championship contender if Collins can get anywhere near his ceiling this season.
Good win...Go Cats!