The Cats got off to a rip-roaring start as they jumped out to an early double-digit lead before letting Vandy tie it back up. As soon as the Dores got back into the game, however, Kentucky jumped back out in front, as they shot 61% in the first half on their way to a 41-28 halftime lead.
After the break, Kentucky didn't look back as they exploded on their way to a blowout win. Vandy’s not a good team, but they aren't the worst team UK will play this year, and it’s certainly nice to get a road win against anyone in the SEC.
Next up, the Cats will return to Lexington to take on the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday afternoon.
Still no Wheeler
After suffering a neck injury against the LSU Tigers last Tuesday night, Wheeler missed Saturday’s game and now this one, too. Calipari has said Wheeler’s day-to-day, so it’s fair to assume he’ll be back for Saturday’s game against the Vols, but it’s definitely not certain.
The good news is TyTy Washington has been lights out as the team’s starting point guard the last two games. Davion Mintz got the start in this one after Jacob Toppin started against the Georgia Bulldogs, and this two-game stretch has clearly helped Mintz get back into a rhythm offensively.
While it isn't ideal to be missing your starting point guard for any period of time, it’s at least allowed Mintz to get back on his game and let John Calipari see how well Washington can run the point if Wheeler gets in foul trouble or gets injured again.
Three big lineups have to stop
I mean, this is becoming a bit ridiculous. I understand that Kentucky is dealing with Wheeler’s injury at the moment, but the backcourt is this team’s strength and Calipari has got to stop playing three bigs at one time.
At the very least, the lineup consisting of Collins-Toppin-Hopkins is just unacceptable. That’s basically three non-scoring threats. Worst case scenario, with Wheeler out, Oscar Tshiebwe has to be in the game with two of Mintz, Washington, and Kellan Grady.
In this game, UK led by double digits halfway through the first half, and they were shooting lights out from the floor. Then, Calipari brought in the Collins-Toppin-Hopkins lineup and the Cats with five minutes without scoring, which allowed the Dores back in the game as they went on an 11-0. Once Cal brought the starters back in, Kentucky immediately went on a 14-0 run to regain the lead and create separation before the break.
Oscar dominates once again
After putting up 29 points (career high) and 17 rebounds against Georgia on Saturday, Big O came into this one and put up another dominant performance on his way to a new career high in points scored. Tshiebwe became the first UK player since Tayshaun Prince in 2001 to have a 30-point, 10-rebound game.
Tshiebwe’s offensive transformation has been nothing short of amazing. We all know he’s one of the best rebounders in the country, but he has progressed so much since the start of this season in a such a short period of time. He’s got one of the best stories in the country.
Big O is firmly entrenched in the National Player of the Year race at this point, and there’s a real chance he can take the award home. He’s definitely an All-American and probably the SEC Player of the Year at this point. I knew Tshiebwe would be good, but every game it amazes just how good.
The offensive juggernaut continues
The SEC’s highest scoring team showed no signs of slowing down in this one. The Cats were propelled by Big O, as mentioned above, and Washington continued to facilitate the offense in an impressive manner.
Meanwhile, Mintz continued to knock down shots, and Grady played a little more aggressive while taking less three-point jumpers. Finally, Keion Brooks played with a ton of energy tonight—something that he’s lacked at times this season. Brooks was all over the place as he crashed the glass and knocked down a few jumpers, including one deep ball.
Kentucky has been frustrating at times. They always seem to go on at least one or two prolonged droughts every game, which can hurt, but they can overcome it with how efficient they are at other times. Of course, the Notre Dame and LSU games were tough to watch, but they certainly seem like an outlier, especially when you consider the fact that they were without Wheeler for the majority of the LSU game and without Washington for the majority of the second half in that one.
This offense can be extremely scary at times. They play fast, but they also play controlled and have shown the ability to score in a variety of ways. I think it’s safe to say this is the most fun offense the Cats have put on the floor since the Fox-Monk-Bam trio.
Now, let’s keep momentum going against that ugly orange team on Saturday...Go Cats!