The Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Kentucky State Thorobreds on Thursday night in Lexington by a score of 99-53.
In its final exhibition game before the regular season starts, Kentucky dominated from start to finish. The Cats went on multiple runs as they got off to a hot start that extended through the halftime buzzer. Going into the break, Kentucky led the Thorobreds 50-20, thanks to an offensive onslaught and defensive gauntlet.
After the break, the Cats kept rolling. As we’ll discuss more below, Kentucky scored and defended at a high level in an impressive final showing before the regular season begins.
Next up, the Cats will take on the New Mexico State Aggies on Monday night in the season opener.
The Wildcats came out with the same starting five as they did in the first exhibition game with DJ Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Adou Thiero, and Tre Mitchell.
This looks like it’ll be the starting five to begin the season and probably throughout the majority of it. The defense could be iffy, but this group is definitely Kentucky’s best five…for now.
Obviously, John Calipari is still expecting the return of 21+ feet — seven-footers Aaron Bradshaw, Ugonna Onyenso, and Zvonimir Ivisic. One of the seven-footers may be in the starting rotation once able to play, but it’s no guarantee. For now, the Cats look good rolling with the most talented group.
Kentucky scored at will all night. It’s as simple as that.
Wagner and Thiero dominated the first half. Edwards dominated the entire game. And Reeves and Mitchell provided their usual veteran presence and consistency. All five starters shot 50%+ from the field and reached double figures, led by Antonio Reeves with 20.
DJ Wagner led the team with seven assists, followed by Rob Dillingham (six), Tre Mitchell (four), and Reeves (four). The Cats scored at all three levels, knocking down deep balls, attacking the rim, and hitting their shots from the stripe.
Kentucky finished the game 10/25 from deep, and that’s after the walk-ons missed their only attempts from deep at the end of the game.
Despite the competition, UK looked like it could be a scary offensive team this season.
Defense tightens things up
The concern with Kentucky early on has been obvious—defense. It was questionable in GloblJam, but it was the summer, so that’s expected.
However, it wasn’t expected that Georgetown College would drop close to 70 points in the Cats’ first exhibition contest last week. Kentucky wasn’t able to really drop the hammer on the NAIA power like it did tonight, and that’s entirely attributable to the defense.
We’ll see how it translates to better opponents. I expect there to be deficiencies, especially early in the season, as long as the big men are out. There are a ton of freshmen, and there’s a lack of kidney protection, so it is what it is.
Either way, tonight was a welcomed improvement in that regard.
Taking care of the ball
You have to take these types of games with a grain of salt, but Kentucky did an amazing job of taking care of the ball.
In the first half, the Cats had 14 assists and zero turnovers—ZERO, you read that right.
After the break, Kentucky had a handful of turnovers, but they had a 5-to-1 ratio in that regard, and that’s impressive no matter who the opponent is, especially with a team full of freshmen.
It’s time for this season to get underway. This is an exciting time for Kentucky basketball, and I expect a fun season ahead.