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Kentucky beats Southern: 5 things to know and postgame banter

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It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win, as the Cats took down Sean Woods’ squad.

NCAA Basketball: Southern at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats beat Sean Woods’ Southern Jaguars on Tuesday night by a score of 76-64.

In what’s becoming rather commonplace, the Cats got off to a slow start in this one as the Jaguars jumped out to a 9-2 lead. After going on a couple of quick runs, UK was able to take a 38-34 lead into halftime.

After the break, it didn't get any prettier. Kentucky struggled to score from deep and from the free throw line. Overall, they just looked flat, which isn't ideal after eight days off. They better get it together because Saturday will be their first real test since the season opener.

Next up, the Cats will travel to Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish on Saturday evening.

Everyone is back

Davion Mintz made his way back to the hardwood after missing the last three games due to illness. Kentucky obviously hasn't had the best luck with injuries this year as CJ Fredrick is out for the season and Mintz, Jacob Toppin, Lance Ware, and Keion Brooks have all missed time with either injuries or illnesses.

Add Bryce Hopkins to that long list as he’s apparently dealing with a minor back injury. Hopkins wasn't on the injury report, but he didn't play much against the Jaguars. Let’s hope Kentucky can get these guys back into a rhythm, get some chemistry going, and get ready for an important stretch.

Block party

Well, the Cats took advantage of the length advantage they had against Southern as they hosted their own block party on Tuesday night in Rupp Arena.

Multiple guys got in on the action, including Toppin who tied the lead with a career-high four blocks of his own. Collins is the only obvious rim protector on this squad, but Oscar Tshiebwe can hold his own as he blocked four tonight, and Toppin clearly used his athleticism extremely well.

Too many turnovers

Kentucky has struggled to hold onto the ball in recent games and this was no exception. The Cats turned the ball over way too much, and they really need to cut down on those moving forward.

This is a good shooting team that can score efficiently, but the giveaways are holding them back a bit. On nights like this one where the offense wasn't exactly clicking, turnovers just magnify these deficiencies. The most frustrating part of this is that UK plays a lot of guards and the backcourt is the best group on the team, so hopefully, greener pastures are ahead in this area.

A balanced scoring affair on a poor shooting night

Usually Kentucky relies on Tshiebwe and TyTy Washington to propel the scoring, and both of those guys scored in double figures, but a lot of guys got involved in this one. Nine players scored, and it was fairly balanced throughout.

It was an ugly game offensively, so outside of Tshiebwe, no one really lit up the scoring column. Of course, it wasn't fun watching such a sloppy game with poor shooting, but it shows that the Cats really need a lot more from everyone else because Washington and Tshiebwe are carrying the load. The offense just looks completely different with those guys off the court.

Tshiebwe puts the team on his back

Big O has easily been one of UK’s best players this season and that was certainly the case in this game. Tshiebwe had his seventh double-double of the season as he scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He shot 9-11 from the field and 5-7 from the line. As mentioned above, he also blocked four shots.

More importantly, Tshiebwe scored the majority of his points in the second half as he dealt with foul trouble in the first. Tshiebwe is Kentucky’s most valuable player thus far this season.

A win is a win, but UK better tighten things up before Saturday. Go Cats!