It took the Kentucky Wildcats an extra five minutes of basketball to take down Saint Joseph’s in overtime to move to 4-1 on the young season. Despite the game ending up much closer than many fans expected, the Cats were able to grind out a hard-earned win against the Hawks.
Let’s look at whose stock rose in Kentucky’s win over Saint Joseph’s and one side of this team that needs some help.
Wagner hasn’t had the start to the season that has been expected, but his showing on Monday night against Saint Joseph’s proved exactly how good he can be and served as a massive step in the right direction as Wagner scored 22 points in a game that will no doubt be a huge confidence boost for the highly recruited freshman.
Wagner was able to show he can be reliable in clutch moments as he scored seven points in overtime. Monday night was a reminder to all to be patient with Wagner as well as the rest of this young team and showed why he saw such high expectations coming into Lexington.
Now, it’s up to him to make sure he can have another repeat performance like this against Marshall on Friday night.
Simply put, the Cats don’t win Monday night if it wasn’t for Mitchell’s performance. With 22 points, six rebounds, four assists, and nine points in overtime with two big-time 3s to start the extra period, Mitchell came up when it mattered most for Kentucky.
With the big men still out, Mitchell has been this team’s top frontcourt option against other team’s larger weapons. That is something that will not continue to create success as we move deeper into the season. But once one of the Wildcat’s 7-footers comes back into the mix, Mitchell will be let loose to do more of what he does best, which is something all Wildcat fans should be excited for.
Yes, this Kentucky team on offense is so exciting to watch, but on the opposite end has clearly had some vulnerable moments. Simply put, having Saint Joseph’s score 86 points at home is not a great look for Kentucky.
The good news is backup is, not sure when, on the way. Maybe. Having at least one rim protector will play a huge factor for this team on the defensive side and will provide much-needed rebounds. The biggest reason the Hawks were in the game to begin with was they had eight more offensive rebounds, which meant eight more possessions, highlighting Kentucky’s need for a big man.
Now, Big Blue Nation should not panic too much about needing an extra period to beat St. Joe’s, as the Hawks are a good and mature team. Instead, focus more on what this game meant for the Cats.
This was a great look into how this young Kentucky team was able to keep its composure and grind out a tough victory in a fashion that, quite frankly, some of the Kentucky teams of the past few years would not have done.
Again, this is a young team. With that, there will be needed lessons and teaching moments, but again, we see in flashes just how good this team can be.
Also, it’s much better to learn these lessons while winning.