Kentucky defeated Duquesne by a final score of 77-52 at Rupp Arena to climb to 2-0 on the season. It was a good night and if you were watching closely, you may have witnessed what may the key to the entire season for the University of Kentucky.
The details are important. UK shot 45.9% from the field and 57.9% from three while holding the Dukes to 30.3% shooting and 26.9% from deep. A good night. Solid and the game was well in hand early on.
Antonio Reeves and CJ Fredrick again led the Wildcats with a combined 32 points on 10-18 shooting and 8-13 from deep. These veteran guards are giving the Cats something they have not had consistently for some time – the threat of and more importantly the delivery of points from outside. You will remember they opened the season combining for 42 points on 14-25 shooting and 8-17 from three in the season-opener vs. Howard. Right now, we cannot even calculate how valuable this will be when Oscar Tshiebwe returns and the opposing teams can’t merely collapse on Oscar in the middle.
Sahvir Wheeler returned and reminded the Big Blue Nation what an elite player he is. He finished with 11 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, two steals, one block and two turnovers in 27 minutes of action. His ability to control the pace of the game, push the ball, and keep things running is essential. With Cason Wallace proving to have many of the same skills in development. Wheelers return and Wallace’s ability to step in at the point, gives the Cats a confidence that will help carry them over the course of the season.
“Ugonna, wow,” John Calipari reacted to the play of freshman, Ugonna Onyenso. Cal added, “he impacts the game the minute he walks on the court. Not afraid.” The 6-foot-11 center scored nine points on 4-7 shooting to go with ten big rebounds, and an impressive three blocks in 19 minutes. The wow factor changed the game with his defense and the way he was able to wipe the glass. As Oscar returns, one the great tasks the staff will have to face is how to get him the minutes he needs and how to most effectively use him alongside Tshiebwe.
Two games into the season, all of the things above are great things to note. But may not be the key ingredient to success.
The real sign that this team is going to be special was seen in game one and put on display brilliantly in game two. This is a team that is not afraid to put their bodies on the floor and fight for the ball. On more than one occasion, the Cats were diving into the fray, attacking the loose ball, not quitting, and coming away with solid recoveries. The reason that matters is simple. If this is a team, playing without a couple of their star players is willing to do that and put forth that effort – then that is the kind of heart that can win games, big games, when you need them the most. Of all the highlight and hopeful signs the Cats have displayed this far in the young season, that one “thing” may be the IT factor – the key - that takes this team to another level.