Don’t look now... But following their 76-67 defeat of Texas A&M on Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats have put together three consecutive wins in the past week. The start of January may have been ugly and even their recent wins haven’t been all that pretty, but the Wildcats seem to have figured things out on the basketball court.
For what felt like the 100th time this season, Kentucky had a slow start on offense which led to a two-point deficit at halftime. However, credit Antonio Reeves (3-6) and Chris Livingston (2-2) for hot outside shooting in the first half to keep the game close. Lance Ware (four rebounds, a block, and an assist in 12 minutes) and Sahvir Wheeler (two assists in seven minutes) also provided a first-half spark with their energy off the bench.
Coming out of intermission, the Wildcats battled multiple officiating calls that were deemed questionable (at best) from the Doug Shows officiating crew. In addition to tough calls, the Wildcats had to survive an offensive surge from Tyrece Radford. While the A&M guard only had two points in the first half, he found a rhythm in the second half by scoring 20 points on 7-11 shooting.
The Aggies gave Kentucky a serviceable fight for 40 minutes, but strong performances from Jacob Toppin and Reeves allowed the Wildcats to survive for a third straight victory.
Kentucky’s win showed more than the Wildcats beating a good team. They also proved they could beat a quality opponent without much scoring from star center Oscar Tshiebwe. Kentucky’s reigning National Player of the Year scored just seven points (all in the second half) and played only 29 minutes due to foul trouble. And even though he wasn’t the go-to option on offense, Tshiebwe proved he could still impact the game with 17 rebounds (14 in the second half).
The Wildcats head to Nashville on Tuesday for a matchup with the Vanderbilt Commodores before hosting the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks (losers of two straight this week) next weekend. Neither game will be easy, as January and February matchups hardly ever are.
The next seven days will provide an excellent opportunity for Calipari’s team to further improve their resume for NCAA Tournament seeding.
When Kentucky recruited Antonio Reeves in the transfer portal, all you heard about what his ability to score the basketball at a high level from all over the court. His ability to score was on full display Saturday, too, when he played a major role in Kentucky’s win over Texas A&M.
The veteran guard had a game-high 23 points (8-17 shooting, 5-11 from deep) in 28 minutes off the bench. In his 19 games for the Wildcats this season, Reeves has now scored 18 or more points seven times. His ability to put up points at a high level will be a key part of Kentucky’s push for the postseason and any success they hope to have in late March.