The Kentucky Wildcats dominated the Central Michigan Chippewas on Monday night by a score of 85-57.
Kentucky came out ready to play, and despite Cal’s best efforts to not embarrass Tony Barbee’s new squad, there wasn't much he could do. The bench got a lot of run in this one, even in the first half, but that couldn't keep the Cats from heading into the half up 51-25.
After the break, it was definitely a learning opportunity for the younger guys and the guys who don't get as much playing time normally. They didn't exactly step on their throats, but they kept a steady lead throughout to finish it off.
Next up, the Cats get a long break before taking on Sean Woods’ Southern Jaguars squad next Tuesday night in Lexington.
The Cats have gotten off to a slow start in just about every game this season, but they came out ready to go in this one. Not only did they show a lot of energy, but they were firing on all cylinders. Kentucky made 11 of its first 12 shot attempts and led by as many as 31 in the first half.
Sure, the competition was poor, but they’ve seemingly come out unfocused in a few games this season so far, so it was nice to see them get things rolling from the go. As mentioned above, UK took a 51-25 lead into the break, and while they didn't dominate
the second half, they didn't need to.
Good vibes all around
Central Michigan is bad, but this was a fun game for all who were involved. Davion Mintz missed his second straight game with an undisclosed illness and, according to KSR’s Matt Jones, several other players were dealing with ailments and/or illnesses that almost prevented them from playing.
Mintz ended up being the only guy that didn't play, but the rest of the team took advantage of this extreme mismatch. The usual suspects, TyTy Washington, Sahvir Wheeler, and Oscar Tshiebwe all dominated, but it wasn't just them. Everybody got involved.
Bryce Hopkins continues to make impressive strides—one time even prompting John Calipari to flex at his bench after a big offensive rebound and put-back by the freshman forward. In fact, Hopkins even got the start in the second half, which was the first time this season that Coach Cal has changed the second-half starting five from the original group.
Keion Brooks played well in his return to action after missing last game. Kellan Grady wasn't afraid to pull the trigger. Jacob Toppin is still shaking off the rust, but Daimion Collins continued to show flashes of brilliance in the meantime. While Dontaie Allen had a second straight poor shooting night from deep, he at least crashed the glass (for the second straight game).
Rebounding domination continues
Kentucky has won the rebounding margin in every game this season so far, and they’ve done so pretty easily. That didn't change in this game as “The Machine” put up another double-double in what’s becoming customary at this point.
Big O has a double-double in all of UK’s games this year, except for against the Ohio Bobcats when he didn't score but still grabbed 10 rebounds. It’s insane what he’s doing on the glass, and he’s clearly solidified himself as the top rebounder in the country.
But it isn't just Tshiebwe. Washington rebounds extremely well for a guard and Keion Brooks is no slouch himself. This team is physical, and they crash the glass hard.
Free throws, free throw, free throws
As I just said, this team is physical, and they play hard, but they’ve really struggled to get to the free throw line this season. It’s actually been pretty peculiar considering Calipari’s teams are generally known for getting to the line, but that just hasn't been the case.
They’ve shot well from the line as a team, but they’ve only eclipsed 20 free throw attempts once this season—against Albany. Well, they eclipsed that mark in this one as they not only shot well from deep, but they attacked the basket at will and crashed the offensive glass for second chance opportunities, which led to a lot of free throws.
This is certainly something that should be a point of emphasis moving forward, and they took a step in the right direction Monday night.
Another solid performance for Kentucky. Go Cats!