The Kentucky Wildcats suffered their second loss of the season to Notre Dame on Saturday 66-62. Not much good came from this one as UK was never able to separate themselves from the Irish, which doesn’t bode well for their upcoming schedule.
Adjustments will need to be made quickly as some trends continued to rise, while some rapidly fell back to Earth.
Oscar Tshiebwe: The only player to consistently appear and make an impact in every game this season has been Tshiebwe. Had he not produced at the level he did, it wouldn’t have taken a few plays in the final moments for Notre Dame to win. They’d have just run away with it. It was his first game without double-digit rebounds, but he was a menace with 25 points on 11/14 shooting along with seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. He was all over the place, and it’s more than fair to argue that he should have been even more involved offensively than he was.
Keion Brooks: Keion’s activity alone would’ve earned him a spot on this list. His numbers were solid with 12 points (5/10 FG) and seven boards, but the energy he played with was noticeable throughout the contest. He was on the glass early, involved on both sides of the ball, and nearly slammed home a big-time dunk. There weren’t a lot of bright spots, but Brooks at least looked like he made the trip to South Bend.
Sahvir Wheeler: Wheeler has played well thus far, but there’s no way around his performance on Saturday. It was bad. 0/5 shooting to go along with three points from the charity stripe, two assists, and two turnovers is not good enough from the veteran point guard in a team’s first true road test. The Irish were begging him to take jumpers as they went under every ball screen, and it reached the point where John Calipari took him out down the stretch. We’ve seen the best of Wheeler to this point, but we got a glimpse of the opposite Saturday.
Three-Point Shooting: I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but the Wildcats struggled from deep. Had they gotten one or two more to drop, this result might have been different. The fact of the matter is they didn’t, and we’re back to square one with Calipari’s usual “takers vs. makers” point. The team was 2/19 from three (10.5%) with Kellan Grady being the only player to connect from deep, yet even he only shot 2/7. It’s been an issue that’s plagued Wildcat teams of the past, and it cost them another game that they could have had if shots simply dropped.
Bench Play: Calipari said it was make or break time when it came to those on the bench trying to make the rotation, but he might have cut the lineup a little too short on Saturday. Davion Mintz is the only player who played significant time off the bench with six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes. Daimion Collins, Jacob Toppin and Bryce Hopkins were the only other bench players to see the floor, and they played just a combined 16 minutes as a trio. The three of them only produced two points and a rebound in their minutes, but Calipari elected to run the starters into the ground, and it didn’t pay off. There are bigger fish to fry as far as issues, but getting these lineups straight and finding those who can come in and contribute consistently can’t be one that lingers much longer.