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Kentucky fights off Yale: 3 things to know and postgame banter

The Cats pick up another win thanks to a monster performance from Oscar Tshiebwe.

Oscar Tshiebwe Isamu Haynes-Sunayama - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats held on to beat the Yale Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon by a score of 69-59.

The Cats got off to a blazing start as they poured in 25 points in the first 10 minutes, but they hit a wall and slowed down significantly. Kentucky only scored eight points in the final 10 minutes of the first half after going six minutes without a field goal and only scoring four points over an eight-minute period.

While Kentucky initially appeared focused and hitting on all cylinders, it quickly slowed down as they took a 33-27 lead into halftime despite leading by as many as 12 points.

After the break, the Bulldogs came out firing, which led to a quick 8-0 run as they took their first lead of the game. However, Oscar Tshiebwe came firing right back as he went on a 7-0 run by himself to give the Cats a lead that they would not relinquish.

While it was a bit of a frustrating game, this was a good test against a very solid Yale team.

Next up, the Cats will travel to Madison Square Garden to take on the UCLA Bruins next Saturday.

Livingston takes advantage of Toppin’s poor play

Jacob Toppin gave Kentucky next to nothing in this game, and Chris Livingston seized the opportunity.

Kentucky fans have been clamoring for Livingston to get more time at the four, rather than the three that John Calipari has been forcing him into. Livingston is a bit too stiff and not a good enough threat from deep to be playing the three consistently.

His potential is maximized at the four, but Toppin has played the majority of minutes there this season, and rightfully so. However, Toppin played very poorly and Livingston took advantage by playing well in his limited time at the four.

The freshman forward is big enough and a good enough rebounder to play the four. He shoots the ball better than Toppin as well. Of course, Toppin does things that not many players can do athletically, but in games like this one, Livingston is a great backup option.

Tshiebwe sparks the Cats

After a poor end to the first half and a slow start to the second half, Yale actually took a brief 35-33 lead. Kentucky’s answer? The reigning National Player of the Year.

Kentucky immediately began feeding Oscar Tshiebwe, and it paid dividends. He went on a 7-0 run by himself, including an and-one dunk that got the players and the crowd going. Big O went on to score 12-straight points for the Cats, as well as getting a block and a steal in the process.

Tshiebwe unsurprisingly picked up another double-double in this one—his 33rd double-double in just 41 games at UK. I feel like Oscar hasn't been quite himself this season, which is probably due to the knee injury, but he finally looked all the way back. He absolutely dominated the second half of this game.

What a monster performance.

Poor defense and rebounding kept this one close

The Cats didn't exactly dominate on the offensive end, but poor defense and rebounding is what kept the Bulldogs in the game.

This is the type of team that Kentucky has struggled with over the last few seasons, so it’s not super surprising that the offense was so-so, but it was surprising that they were seemingly incapable of slowing Yale down at all.

Part of the poor defensive performance was an inability to keep Yale off the offensive glass and defend without fouling. Yale was in the bonus less than 10 minutes in the second half. Kentucky barely had a rebounding edge, which had appeared to be improving the last few games after being a concern early in the season, and Yale actually grabbed double-digit offensive rebounds.

And as bad as the defense was, there were numerous defensive breakdowns that led to wide-open shots for the Bulldogs that luckily didn't fall. Kentucky is a talented team, but they’ve got a lot of things to shore up over the next few weeks.

While it wasn't a perfect game from the Cats, they are steadily improving.

Go Cats!