The Kentucky Wildcats struggled earlier on, and while they never looked great they did put enough buckets together to beat Southern at home with a score of 76-64.
This was the last warm-up game before Kentucky hits the difficult part of the non-conference schedule, and given the performance it is a good thing this did not happen against Notre Dame or Ohio State.
Despite the struggles as a team, several individuals stood out, for better or worse, during Tuesday’s matchup. Here are the risers and fallers coming out of Kentucky’s last home game before Louisville comes to down in a few weeks.
Jacob Toppin - Toppin has shown some impressive skills in spurts over the last two seasons, but on Tuesday he showcased exactly what this team needs from him. With five rebounds and four blocks, he was the energy guy that the Wildcats needed on the defensive end to keep things from getting away in the first half.
Kellen Grady - Yes, I know Grady scored all of his points in the first half. But they came at a time when nobody else could score. He hit open looks when nobody else could, he stepped up to keep Kentucky in the game when nothing was working, and he had only one turnover while nearly leading the team in minutes. Sure, I wish a few more shots had fallen. But this is his role, for better or for worse.
TyTy Washington - I get a vibe from watching Tyty Washington play that I do not remember from watching other college basketball games. It is almost like he is the adult in the room and when things starts getting scary he says, “alright, give it here. I’ll get a bucket.”
He is so calm, so composed. He is efficient on both ends of the floor. And he has a presence that evokes confidence from his teammates. That is exactly what this team needed on Tuesday, and it will be even more important when the conference schedule hits.
Daimion Collins - I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: Daimion Collins reminds me so much of Willie Cauley-Stein. Willie was a defensive legend that could guard five positions, he became more and more polished offensively as time went on, and he thrived on dunking on the faces of everyone in his path. Collins is very much in that same mold, and he made his case on Tuesday for more minutes as he made a difference in the points, rebounds, and blocks categories.
Sahvir Wheeler - Yes, I know how important Wheeler is to this team’s success. But his turnovers were a problem on Tuesday, especially early on. It is unfair to expect him to be perfect every game, but if he is going to be the floor general that will take the Wildcats to the promised land. Despite leading the team in +/, Wheeler has to clean it up.
Free Throw Coach - I do not think there is a designated free throw coach, but maybe there should be. The Wildcats shot less than 43% from the charity stripe in the first half, and they did not fair that much better to finish the game. As we have seen time and time again in the John Calipari era, free throws can make or break a tournament run. This needs to be a focus for this team moving forward.