The Cats came out ready to play as they jumped out to a 12-2 lead and didn't let the Cards grab a rebound until five minutes into the game. However, the scoring droughts and silly mistakes let the Cardinals get back into the game. Despite the inconsistency, Kentucky pulled together to take a 45-30 lead into halftime. It was the most first half points scored by a Calipari-led Kentucky team against Louisville as the Cats shot 64 percent.
After the break, Kentucky came out flat allowing Louisville to open up with a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 45-37. That didn't last long, though, as the Cats were just too much for the Cards.
Next up, the Cats will resume SEC play as they take on the LSU Tigers on Tuesday night in Lexington.
Oh, and in case you forgot, Kenny Payne, in fact, did not win those games.
Toppin comes alive
Jacob Toppin has scored 11 points and been unplayable the last four games, but he came out aggressive and ready to play in this one. The message was clearly received.
Toppin attacked the basket, thrived in the midrange and crashed the boards. This was the best Toppin’s looked since the Bahamas and the version Kentucky needs to get things back on track this season. The Cats have had a black hole at the four all season, but Toppin certainly looked the part of a game-changing player in this one.
You do have to consider the competition as this is the second worst team the Cats have played this season, but it’s still a positive development regardless of the competition. He absolutely dominated today as he scored a career high.
Let’s just hope he keeps this up.
Tshiebwe continues to put up big numbers, but doesn't quite look the same
Oscar Tshiebwe is the last player I want to complain about, but we’re all kidding ourselves if we can’t see that he just doesn’t look like himself, despite the big numbers.
I was hesitant to write anything negative about him after he put up 23 points and 19 rebounds against the Missouri Tigers, but he was horrific on the defensive end and turned the ball over way too much.
It was much of the same in this game. Oscar dominated the boards and scored at will in the paint, but he simply can’t defend in space and on the perimeter, especially in the pick-and-roll. They’ve got to get that cleaned up. Additionally, he just couldn't hold onto the ball. He had several really bad turnovers, multiple of which came in transition as he tried to dribble the ball up the court.
Like I said, it’s hard to complain with the numbers he’s putting up, but the lapses have been far more detrimental this season. With that being said, his play in the second half of this game was classic Oscar.
Free throws and turnovers continue to be an issue
Kentucky was able to win handily in this one as the Cards are just a very bad basketball team, but the issues still haven't been corrected. Kentucky has struggled with free throws all season long and the turnovers have become more apparent.
As mentioned above, Tshiebwe struggled with turnovers and Sahvir Wheeler played extremely poorly. For as well as Kentucky played, two starters who played the majority of the game struggled to hold onto the ball.
Further, the free throw shooting was ugly. The Cats would've won this game by 30 if they just hit their free throws. Once again, Oscar continues to shoot poorly from the line. After shooting 71% from the line for the first half of the season, he’s shooting under 60% in the last six games.
Cason Wallace played well and does so many good things, but the free throw shooting is a conundrum. He’s shooting close to 50% from deep on the season, but he’s close to 50% from the line on the season.
These are issues that are fixable and have to be corrected for the Cats to have long-term success. Every player should be shooting hundreds of free throws every day.
The interesting thing about Louisville is their disappointing season has to be attributed to the lack of guard play. They have a lot of bigs that are solid, but they don't have a point guard and their guard play outside of El Ellis is nonexistent. However, with all their big guys, you’d think they’d be able to hit the glass.
That certainly wasn't the case in this one. As mentioned above, the Cats held the Cards without a single rebound for the first five minutes of the game, and they dominated the glass all game long.
Of course, Tshiebwe crashed the glass as always, but Toppin did well, and as a group, Kentucky did very well. Physicality is something this team is missing, but they showed a lot of it in this one.
Now, let’s celebrate a win heading into the new year!