The tale of the first half was offensive efficiency. Tennessee entered the game as the second ranked defense according to KenPom, and Kentucky shot 22-28 from the field, which was good enough for 79%(!!!!!). Led by TyTy Washington with 14 points, John Calipari has found the secret for success when it comes to this team on offense.
The second half was much of the same, as the Cats gave a wild Rupp Arena a show this afternoon they won’t soon forget.
Here are a few quick things to know from the Cats’ win against the Vols.
Early this morning former Kentucky Head Coach Joe B. Hall passed away at the age of 93. What better way for him to be remembered in today’s game than John Calipari having a rolled up program in his hand on the sidelines today. He also started the first defensive possession in a 1-3-1 zone as a tribute to Hall.
“Coach Joe B. Hall – my friend, my mentor, and an icon in our state and in our profession – passed away this morning. Joe B. Hall took over a program and carried on the winning tradition and legacy of excellence of Kentucky basketball,” Calipari said on Twitter. “Coach Hall made it the job it is today with his hard work, his ingenuity and his great basketball coaching. Coach Hall always met me with a smile, including two days ago when I went to see him and hold his hand. He understood everything that was said, and as I prayed for him, he squeezed my hand tight. Coach Hall is beloved by everyone. What makes me happy on this extremely somber day is that before he left this earth, he knew how much all of us appreciated and loved him. I would ask that everyone keep him and his family in your prayers. I love you, Coach.”
Gotta love seeing Coach Cal honoring beloved friend. And you know Coach was smiling down on the Cats today with the inspirational effort they gave in crushing the Vols. There’s no question this was one of the most complete games Kentucky has played in recent memory.
Sahvir Wheeler returns to starting lineup
After missing the last two games with a neck injury suffered against LSU, the speedy point guard returned to the starting lineup and showed out.
Picking up where he left off, Wheeler quickly scored two of the Cats’ first three baskets driving past Tennessee freshman guard Kennedy Chandler to get a couple of easy layups. Tennessee’s defense is solid, but Wheeler’s speed ended up causing some problems throughout the entire 40 minutes.
At one point tonight in the second half this Kentucky team was shooting 80% from the field. They have shown over the last several weeks they can be explosive, but tonight's performance was electric.
If even a portion of this offense shows up on a nightly basis, this team will be hard to outscore come March.
TyTy Washington is a rising star
TyTy is becoming the guy. One of the main questions entering the season, was does this guy have a go-to guy when the team needs a bucket. The last week has shown that they do.
Whether it be creating in the pick-and-roll or the mid-ranger pull-up (floater), he is going to get his. In Wheeler’s absence, TyTy also had to take over lead guard duties, which has only raised his draft stock.
Enjoy him while you can BBN. TyTy is a budding superstar who’s looking more and more like a future NBA Draft lottery pick.
Davion Mintz’s confidence continues to grow
Mintz was last season's best player, and there was hope he’d be even better this year after a year in Kentucky’s system. After struggling earlier in the season, Mintz has finally found his groove.
After an impressive performance at LSU, the sixth-year senior has been on a tear as of late. He continued that today showcasing his skillset from behind the perimeter to even a blow-by dunk, which about brought the Rupp ceiling down.
If he continues to play with confidence we have seen over the last two weeks, this team only becomes more dangerous.
Defense leads to offense
This is an old saying that most everyone knows. It is especially true for the Kentucky Basketball team. They are solid defensively in all aspects of the floor, but it is what it leads to going the other way that makes this team elite.
At one point, the Cats were outscoring Tennessee 27-0 on fast-break points, many of which came off Volunteer turnovers that the good guys turned into easy points.
Whether it’s a rebound or a steal, this team is going to pick it up and go. Even on made baskets, they are on their end of the court scoring in under 5-seconds. It’s absurd. This team has the makings of being one of the best offensive teams in Kentucky history at this rate.