It was an ordinary first game of the season for the Wildcats on Monday night against Pikeville. They came out and made mistakes early but seemed to settle in as the game progressed.
As with any young team, you can expect mistakes to be made but it is how you adapt and overcome that defines you as a team. Anyone who turned on the game knew that it was going to be over quickly. Pikeville had the lead very early in the game but Brandon Knight scored six straight points to take the lead back for the Wildcats and they never gave it back. It ended with the Wildcats winning 97-66 at Rupp Arena.
Some of the highlights of the first half dealt with Brandon Knight and him proving himself once again. The young man out of Florida had another good performance and at halftime was 5-7 from the field and went to the locker room with 16 first half points. Another heavy contributor in the first half was Darius Miller. He was 4-7 shooting and had 11 points at halftime.
For the ‘Cats that is about all positives you could take from the first half. John Calipari had a starting five that consisted of Doron Lamb, Brandon Knight, DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones. Not exactly what you would call a monstrous starting squad. They struggled early on in the game on boards and were turnover happy throughout the entire game.
Kentucky gave up nine offensive rebounds in the first half to their three and they turned the ball over ten times. Things were very sloppy at the start but the young team began to find a way to put things together. Knight was able to get in to the lane at will and create problems for the Pikeville defense. This was evident by their 37 team fouls at the end of the game.
The second half was much more fluid and you could begin to see the talent that this team could possibly have after a few games. DeAndre Liggins and Doron Lamb both showed what they are capable of. The both had a combined 10 points at halftime and came out in the second half and doubled it.
Liggins could have possibly been the most complete player on the floor. He ended the game with 18 points and seven rebounds. Calipari touched on it a little bit after the game but believed that Liggins came out of the gate a little slow but picked it up after the intermission. The most impressive thing about Liggins stat line is that it contains a zero in the turnover department. On a night when Kentucky turned the ball over 15 times, Liggins didn’t do it once in the 34 minutes of time he was on the court.
Lamb also impressive in the second half ended the game with 16 points and 5 rebounds and also had zero turnovers. The one thing that stuck out the most with Lamb was the 10 times he shot from the free throw line. With the dribble drive and officiating cracking down on touch fouls, Kentucky will be a team that benefits that most.
Kentucky shot 56 free throws and were 44-56 which was good for 78.6% and also two free throws shy of tying the school record for most attempted. In any game if you get to the line that often you are going to be a difficult team to beat. With that high percentage you also get the lows though. Kentucky was only 1-11 from behind the arc and for a team that has been praised by their coach for being a good shooting team it did not look to be the case.
Kentucky still has a lot of work to do but the defense looked to be coming around. There were only two Pikeville players in double figures at the end of the game and held them to shooting 32% from the field. The turnovers need to come down but that comes with experience and practice. Kentucky will play Dillard on Friday in the final exhibition game before the season starts. Hopefully Big Blue Nation will have a ruling on Enes Kanter by then. Even without him you still have to like most of what you saw tonight.