The Kentucky Wildcats were back in action today as they defeated the High Point Panthers 92-48.
It was a very special day across the program and the fanbase, as Tubby Smith got his name and jersey and retired into the rafters of Rupp Arena. It was a party that dated back to 1998, and that energy continued as the Cats kept their foot on the gas. They continue to gain momentum heading into the heart of the conference schedule, and after today’s fourth straight dominant performance the phrase “on fire” might be an understatement.
Overall, the first half was a rock fight for the most part. High Point showed plenty of fight, much like they did against Michigan State earlier this week when they took a one-point lead into the half. After a streak of runs by both teams throughout the half, Kentucky finally flexed its muscles to pull away in the last few minutes to take an 18-point lead to the locker room.
The second half ended up being much like the end of the first. The Panthers went cold, while UK tightened up defensively, and lived in transition.
With their 11th win of the season now in the books, here are several quick takeaways from today's game.
Even though this team is different than most John Calipari teams have been built in his time at Kentucky, one of the building blocks remained the same for this team to reach its full potential. That is chemistry.
This team is filled with experience, but even with that most of them have never shared the floor together. That was obvious in the early stages of the season, but ever since the Notre Dame game you can see it continually grow each night out especially on the offensive end.
This team has the ability to be elite on both ends of the floor. Even though they are far from their ceiling, it is obvious this team is figuring each other out. Should make for a fun January and February in conference play.
Grady and TyTy are becoming go-to scorers
One of the main questions heading into the middle part of the season has been who would be the go-to guy when this teams needs a bucket. Over the last few weeks a few answers have appeared for that question in Kellan Grady and TyTy Washington.
After some early seasons struggles, and passing up plenty of shots Grady is finally seeing green and rightfully so. He wasn't a 17-point per game scorer at Davidson out of luck. He can fill it up. But he has to take the shots...
For TyTy he is stepping into his role as a scorer, but is obviously still ramping up to his full potential. He is coming into his own as a playmaker at this level, but it is no secret that his jump shot is one of the best in the country. He is playing his way into a lottery-lock at this point.
Well what about Oscar? Oscar has become the focal point of every scouting report to this point, and you saw that today as well as against Missouri.
The Cats will need a big bucket in a game soon enough, and don't be shocked to see Grady or Washington get that look.
For the early part of the season, this team struggled defensively. That is not the case anymore.
This team is athletic, quick, and are starting to buy into the scheme Coach Cal wants to play. There are obviously some more improvements that can be made, but with the pace and efficiency they are playing with on offense currently it will be tough for teams to keep up with the Cats.
After High Point was making this a game early one, Kentucky’s defense held the Panthers without a point for the final 3:34 of the first half. That’s impressive against any Division I school.
Rotation is getting set
This is the time of year that Calipari likes to cut down his rotation, and that is happening again.
Against High Point today, before it became a blow-out, Coach Cal seems to be trending towards a seven-man rotation that features the normal starters with Davion Mintz and Jacob Toppin being the go-to players off the bench. With foul trouble in certain games don't be shocked to see Lance Ware, Bryce Hopkins, Daimion Collins, or Dontaie Allen get some run, but it seems to be dwindled down to those top-seven at the moment.
Fun Kentucky basketball is back
Last season was tough. For fans and every in the program winning nine games is never fun.
That is not the case this season.
Coach Calipari has his team playing with pace, space, and energy on both ends of the floor. Not only can you feel the excitement, you can see it in the faces of the players as well.
Don’t doubt this team Big Blue Nation. This could end up being one fun season.