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Kentucky Basketball hammers Team Canada: 5 things to know and postgame cheers

Kentucky obliterates the host Canadian team and is now 2-0 at GLOBL JAM.

Adou Thiero Drew Brown - A Sea of Blue

Game 2 of the GLOBL JAM is in the books for the Kentucky Wildcats.

It was difficult to have any sort of expectations for this Kentucky team heading into round-robin play at Globl Jam because there were just so many unknowns.

I think I speak for most Kentucky fans when I say that I was pleasantly surprised with how the Cats handled Germany with relative ease on Wednesday afternoon.

Still, coming into Thursday’s matchup with the host Canadian team, there were questions about how this young team would respond to playing back-to-back games in July.

Those questions were answered quickly as Kentucky came out imposing their will from the opening tip-off. Despite changing the starters the Cats didn’t miss an offensive beat.

UK would lead 49-34 at the break, but the story of the first half was the play of Reed Sheppard. The Kentucky native was dominant on the defensive end getting steals and converting dunks on the other end.

After getting the start, Sheppard led Kentucky in scoring with 12 points to go along with three steals in the first half.

Calipari and the Cats still looked good after the break and did nothing but expand the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

I would have liked to see some competition down the stretch, but it was basically on cruise control for Kentucky, as they’d win 93-69.

Here are five things to know.

The Reed Sheppard show

The freshman guard wasted no time making an impact on the game after getting his first start. Sheppard essentially dominated the first half with his aggressive defense propelling his offense.

Several steals and slams ignited a Kentucky-dominant crowd, and it was easy to see that Reed Sheppard was feeding off their energy.

For the few people still wondering “if” Sheppard will play, it’s officially time to change your stance to “how much” because after what we saw tonight, there is no doubt that the kid will be on the floor.

He’d finish the game with 14 points on 5/8 shooting, four assists, four steals, two boards, and two assists.

Guard play

The Kentucky back-court opened Globl Jam play with an impressive performance from an assist-to-turnover ratio and picked up right where they left off on Thursday night.

After 20 minutes of play, Kentucky tallied 14 assists while only committing six turnovers.

This season John Calipari will have the luxury of nearly half a dozen guys on his roster who can handle the ball as a primary option.

Whether it’s DJ Wagner, Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard, Antonio Reeves — or a combination of the four — it’s safe to say that Kentucky’s back-court looks poised for a special season.

For the game UK would finish with 27(!) assists vs. just nine turnovers.


Tre Mitchell — The great equalizer

It’s only July, and the point about how important Tre Mitchell will be to this team has already been hammered home, but it’s completely valid.

The transfer from West Virginia seems to have already learned and embraced his role, all while meshing with his teammates.

During our postgame press conference opportunities, it’s been evident that Mitchell’s maturity off the floor is above that of his teammates.

Remember — Tre Mitchell is a college basketball journeyman, so he knows how to integrate himself into a program without ruffling any feathers.

On Thursday night, he causally dropped eight points, five blocks, three assists, two steals, and six boards, but it’s his presence on the floor that really stabilizes Kentucky, especially offensively.

Calm Calipari?

Again — it’s only July — but with what we’ve seen so far in Toronto, it’s becoming feasible to think that Calipari may really be a cow to back off this season. There’s been so much dialogue around Cal’s desire for this to be a player-led team.

Most years, I’d say that’s coach-speak, but with the plethora of hall handlers, it may actually become a reality in 2023-2024.

A lot of mouths to feed

The only real moderate concern I could mention after two games in Toronto is that there will be a lot of players to keep happy. The Cats are loaded all over the floor, so finding and maintaining balance will be a critical task for Calipari and his staff.

But this is obviously the kind of problem you want to have, especially when you consider where this team was a few weeks ago when Tre Mitchell wasn’t even in the portal, and Reeves looked likely to depart town.

My how things have changed.

Kentucky now gets Friday off before returning to action Saturday vs. Team Africa. That game is scheduled to tip off at 1:30 pm ET and will air live on CBS Sports Network.

What are your biggest takeaways from tonight’s game? Let us know in the comments section!

Also, don’t forget that the tape delay broadcast of this game is in a few hours at 12 am ET on CBS Sports Network. Go here for the online stream.

Go Cats!!