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Kentucky beats Penn: 3 things to know and postgame cheers

Bradshaw breaks out as the Cats pull away from Penn late.

NCAA Basketball: Pennsylvania at Kentucky Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Penn Quakers on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia by a score of 81-66.

Kentucky didn't get off to the fastest of starts, but they settled in late in the first half and for spurts of the game. The Cats went on a 16-2 run to go up 39-23, but the Quakers answered with a 6-0 run of their own to make it 39-29 at the half.

Aaron Bradshaw paced Kentucky with nine points and seven rebounds.

After the break, the Quakers continued their late first-half run by extending the 6-0 run to a 13-2 run to cut Kentucky’s lead to just five early in the second half. A back-and-forth battle ensued, and Penn made it just a two-point game halfway through the second half, but the Cats were able to get it together and pull away late in the much-needed bounceback victory.

It wasn't the prettiest game, but it was nice to get back in the win column. A big test is coming up next weekend.

Next up, the Cats will travel to Atlanta to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday night.

Now, here are three things to know from today’s win at Wells Fargo Arena in Philly!

Injury updates

DJ Wagner returned to the court in this one following a one-game absence due to an ankle injury. He showed no lingering effects and attacked the rim at every opportunity.

John Calipari announced before the game that sophomore center Ugonna Onyenso would return to action next weekend against North Carolina, which is more than welcome news. Onyenso has been dealing with a foot injury that he suffered in the GLOBL Jam event in Canada this summer.

Finally, still no word on Zvonimir Ivisic. The 7-foot Croatian is still waiting for the NCAA to rule on his eligibility. As frustrating as the NCAA is, especially after clearing two similar players on UCLA’s roster, part of the blame has to be placed on the UK admission office, who delayed his acceptance into the school until October.

Hopefully, the Cats get to full strength soon.

Defense leaves much to be desired

Kentucky’s biggest flaw all season has been its inability to stop opponents from scoring. It’s clear that the defense is an issue, and it left a lot to be desired in this game once again.

In the early part of this season, the Cats have been able to outscore opponents with an offensive juggernaut. However, the rebounding and defense have been questionable at best. The response early on was that Kentucky would be fine once the three 7-foot rim protectors returned because they’d help both the rebounding and defense.

While Bradshaw’s return has been super helpful, the young Cats are still struggling big time on the defensive end. Too many guys get blown past and taken to the rim off the bounce. Opponents consistently get wide-open looks from deep. Clearly, it was nice to have Bradshaw in there to block three shots or else it might have been even worse.

If Kentucky is ever going to improve on defense, I imagine it will be over the course of the next month. It’s a long season, and there’s room for growth up until and including in March. But as classes end and basketball ramps up over the holiday break, now is the time to focus on shoring up the defensive side of things.

Bradshaw has arrived

Aaron Bradshaw, along with Kentucky’s other 7-footers, seemed like a bit of an enigma as the Cats were rolling early this season, and everyone kept saying, “Wait until the 7-footers get back.”

Well, the first of the three returned last weekend, with Bradshaw scoring three points, grabbing two rebounds, and blocking a shot in just 15 minutes of play. It was clear that Calipari was just trying to ease him back into action, but he unleashed him in this game.

Bradshaw looked every bit the part of a former top-10 recruit and future lottery pick. The 7-foot freshman was active all over the court. His motor simply never stops.

He scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, nabbed a steal, and blocked three shots. He even stepped back and hit a three.

This team hasn't exactly looked the same over the past couple of games. The early shine has worn off a bit, but we’ve seen what this team is capable of, and Bradshaw only heightens the ceiling for this group.

We’ll see if he can consistently produce at a high level, but he looked like a future star in this one.

The Cats have a long way to go, but they have all the pieces for a special season. Let’s discuss today’s win!

Go Cats!