Coach John Calipari has unleashed a new offensive philosophy, allowing Kentucky to spread the floor and take advantage of a guard-heavy roster full of shooters.
That plan paid off big on Friday night as sharp-shooter Kellan Grady filled it up against Western Kentucky’s 2-3 zone defense and opened things up for Oscar Tshiebwe, who set a Rupp Arena rebounding record, as the Wildcats cruised to a 95-60 win.
Grady finished with 23 points and was 6-for-9 from three-point range, while TyTy Washington added 20 points and six assists.
The big story proved to be Tshiebwe, who finished with another double-double with 14 points and 28 rebounds despite battling WKU’s 7-foot-5 center Jamarion Sharp who finished with seven blocks.
In the most amazing stat of the night, Tshiebwe out-rebounded the Hilltoppers all by himself (28 to 27) to make history in Rupp Arena.
No. 20 Kentucky opened things up early as Grady hit a three-pointer to give the Wildcats an 11-5 lead, followed by a Washington jumper, a Tshiebwe bucket in the paint, another three by Washington, and a tip dunk by Jacob Toppin to extend the lead to 20-7.
Back-to-back threes by Grady would push the lead to 35-19 before WKU would go on a 9-2 run to end the half as the Wildcats took a 37-28 advantage into the locker room.
WKU quickly got back into the game to start the second half and cut the lead to four (37-33) before Grady again took care of business by hitting three shots from behind the arc, the final one putting the Cats ahead 52-33 on the way to an easy victory.
WKU entered the game with wins over Louisville and Ole Miss and started three Kentucky natives in Camron Justice (Hindman), Jamarion Sharp (Hopkinsville) and Dayvion McKnight (Shelbyville). The in-state matchup also proved to be an emotional moment throughout Big Blue Nation as the game served as another opportunity to raise funds for tornado victims throughout western Kentucky. The two teams last met in 2012 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats return to action on Wednesday, December 29th at home against Missouri.
Kellan Grady is starting to heat up, having another impact game on Friday night with 23 points on 7/10 shooting to garner Co-MVP honors with Tshiebwe, who has a lock on MVP performances this season.
Prior to Friday’s game, Grady said he felt more “engaged” in Kentucky’s new offensive approach as it created better shot opportunities. That was evident as he was locked in after coming off a breakout performance against North Carolina with 19 points.
The Davidson transfer is shooting a team best 44.2% from three-point range and is also third on the team in minutes played behind Sahvir Wheeler and Washington. On Friday night, Kentucky finished with 38 fields goals on 27 assists to showcase Calipari’s new playbook.
Coming off the bench, Toppin had the game’s top highlights with a tip dunk off a missed three-point attempt, and an acrobatic lay-up in transition as the 6-foot-9 forward took a bounce pass from Davion Mintz, converting on a 360-degree spin to the basket. Toppin finished with 12 points and six assists in 24 minutes of action.
Rolling into the holiday break with a 35-point win over WKU pic.twitter.com/yq9jajhH1v— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) December 23, 2021