These young Wildcats have already showed tremendous growth in this young season.
While there is still a lot of room for improvement, you can see that this team is starting to come together. And tonight showed just how high the ceiling can be this season.
Here are six takeaways from tonight’s game.
Strong First Half
The Cats shot a blistering 67% from the floor to start the game. Much of this hot shooting came on the 26 points they scored in the paint. The Wildcats went to the dish early and often and it worked. They used their size and athleticism to score at will inside. They also took advantage of several fast break opportunities.
Scoring also came from a variety of places. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (10), Hami Diallo (11), and Kevin Knox (15) were all in double digits before the horn at the end of the first half.
The defense was also working for the Cats. They forced 12 turnovers in the first half and that led to 20 points on the other end.
I liked what I saw from the Cats in the first half in terms of on ball defense. There weren’t as many easy drives to the basket and the team seems to be improving in their communication on switches and closing out on the perimeter.
That being said, there is still room to improve, especially when it comes to help defense. There were several times when UIC would get penetration and kick it out to an open player behind the arc. Fortunately for the Cats not many of these looks went down, but that will definitely have to improve as the season goes on.
Cal also used the zone extensively in the first half. He didn’t really go back to it in the second half, but he seems to be getting more comfortable turning to the zone and working out the best way to utilize it.
Who is the point guard?
Both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green played lights out tonight. Both scored in double figures. Both were better with their turnovers (and the team only had 13 on the night, which is a huge improvement). And Cal played a lot more of the game with both on the floor at the same time. Gilgeous-Alexander was the more complete point guard tonight and Green’s scoring ability (so far) has been superior. They worked well off each other and Cal seems to be working out the best way to utilize both guards. I think that’s a good problem to have.
Kevin Knox can score
Knox is one of the best scorers on the team and he can score in droves. The way he can create shots for himself and the way he works off the ball make him dangerous in so many ways. He posted a career high in points tonight (25) and I think that mark has a very good chance to be raised many times over the course of this season.
I’ll just leave these here.
Hamidou Diallo cleared for takeoff! pic.twitter.com/dFg07tYJoo— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) November 26, 2017
LORD HAVE MERCY, HAMIDOU DIALLO!!! pic.twitter.com/sOWmZMqQy3— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) November 27, 2017
These were just four of his career high 19 points on 8-11 shooting. This kid is just flat exciting to play.
Dribble Drive is Alive
One thing that has been fun to see with this team is how many players can attack the rim off the dribble. That ability was on full display tonight. Almost everyone on this team can face up and beat their man on the bounce and penetrate into the paint. This kept the UIC defense on their heels and helped to create mismatches. It also means Kentucky has plenty of offensive weapons to turn to down the stretch.
This was a fun game to watch (as most victories are). The Wildcats are back in action on Saturday in Rupp against Harvard.