The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Duquesne Dukes on Friday night by a score of 77-52.
The Cats came out active on the defensive end despite the offense looking a bit less efficient. While Kentucky wasn't bad by any means in the first half, things did look a bit more stagnant, and they weren't exactly scoring at will, taking a 38-22 lead into the half.
After the break, Kentucky didn't look great at times, but as the game wore on, they slowly pulled away for a big victory.
Next up, the Cats will travel to Madison Square Garden to take on the Michigan State Spartans in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night.
Wheeler returns, but starting five remains the same
Sahvir Wheeler made his season debut as he missed the Cats’ final exhibition and first regular season game due to injury. Wheeler did not make the start, as Calipari stuck with the same five as he has the last two games, but he did enter early and played often.
While Wheeler has his strengths, I can’t help but think he was the cause of the Cats’ early stagnancy. His inability to shoot really shrinks the Court and allows defenders to spend more time on the perimeter on Kentucky’s actual shooters.
With that being said, he’s a veteran presence with a penchant for finding open guys. The All-SEC point guard made a few questionable choices, as is customary, but he has an innate ability to set others up for success, and he did just that in this one, racking up double-digit assists.
Rebounding struggles continue
Kentucky has been less than impressive this season (and preseason) on the glass, especially preventing offensive rebounds. They allowed 11 more offensive boards tonight.
Obviously, the Cats miss Oscar Tshiebwe, but against these types of opponents, Kentucky has to be better on the glass, especially with Michigan State and Gonzaga coming up next week.
While Kentucky has several uber-athletic players, they’re missing that bruiser that’ll go and grab the ball any time it comes off the rim. Big O’s return will be huge for this team, especially on the defensive end as they limit opponents’ opportunities.
Ugonna like Onyenso
Bad pun, I know. I’ve written about Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso the last three games and that’s not changing tonight. Onyenso has to be the most surprising player so far on this year’s team.
The reclassified freshman is the youngest player on the team, and while he’s raw offensively, he looks like he’s getting better by the day.
Onyenso looks more comfortable in the post and around the rim. He blocks everything that comes his way. And he’s been active on the glass grabbing double-digit rebounds in this game. In fact, I’d go as far as to say he’s easily overtaken Lance Ware as Kentucky’s backup big man once Tshiebwe returns.
What a late addition Onyenso has been.
Balanced attack and three-point shooting
The Cats had an incredibly balanced attack tonight as the offense was a bit off. While no player really stood out scoring wise, multiple guys contributed in this one. Additionally, the Cats shot extremely well from deep again.
You didn't need to watch the game or read this article to know CJ Fredrick continues to shoot the lights out. The Iowa transfer is arguably the best shooter in the country.
Outside of Fredrick, Antonio Reeves unsurprisingly continued to light it up as he led the way in scoring again for the Cats. Cason Wallace, Chris Livingston, and Wheeler also knocked down shots from behind the arc.
Another one in the wins column...Go Cats!