Lexington, KY – Rupp Arena – 11-23-18 – Ricky Blair – Sports View America – UK Wildcat Columnist
Kentucky was unimpressive in a 77-62 win over Tennessee State.
The Wildcats got off to a slow start in tonight’s game against Tennessee State and fell behind the Tigers early as they were trailing 9-5 when the first TV timeout was called with 15:09 to go in the first half.
After the timeout it didn’t get much better for the Cats, they were really struggling on the offensive end and had only hit three of their first 10 shots for a paltry 30 percent. They were still trailing 12-8 at the 11 minute mark in the half.
The Cats finally found a little fire power when Immanuel Quickley hit a fast break jumper, which was followed closely by a fast break three-pointer by Tyler Herro, these back to back baskets gave Kentucky its first lead of the game at 15-14. Kentucky went up by as many as seven when they took a 21-14 lead, but the Tigers only trailed by four when a media timeout was called with 3:53 to go in the half.
Once again the Cats hit an offensive spurt and went up 35-24 when Quade Green made a nifty reverse layup, but as has been its history this year the Cats gave up another three-pointer to TSU’s Kamar McKnight which cut the Kentucky lead down to eight at the half with a 35-27 score.
The Wildcats offensive struggles were a key in the first half as they only made one of ten from the three-point line and shot only 33 percent (9-27) from the field in the half.
While it wasn’t pretty the Wildcats continued to drive and draw fouls in the second half. They had made 21 foul shots out 25 attempts to extend their lead to 47-32 when the first break in action was taken in second half.
Keldon Johnson was on fire in the second half; he had scored 16 of the Wildcats first 32 points as he helped the Cats take a 67-48 lead with seven minutes to go in the game. Johnson finished with a career high 27 points, he also had 7 rebounds on the night. Reid Travis had another solid game as he chipped in 13 points and a team leading 9 rebounds in the win.
“We will not be a good team until we get defensive confidence.” Said UK Coach John Calipari after the game. Calipari talked about how the team’s offense suffers when you can’t stop people on the defensive end.
While Kentucky did struggle in the first half they did find the basket in the second half as they hit an impressive 56 percent from the field. But after shooting free throws well for most of the game, the Wildcats struggled down the stretch only making 6 of 16 to end the game. The missed free throws were the reason the Cats won by only 15 instead of by 25.
Kentucky’s schedule is allowing them to learn and win while they struggle to find a consistency that they will need going forward. Despite their struggles, the Wildcats are on a five game winning streak and hope to extend it to six when they take on Monmouth next Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.