Kentucky had no problems with St. John’s in their SEC/Big East Challenge matchup, as they took down the Red Storm 81-69. Sophomore Terrence Jones and freshman Anthony Davis dominated offensively and on the glass to lead the Cats to their seventh straight win to begin the season.
Davis played his most complete game of the season and was very active all over the floor Thursday night. He finished the night with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while chasing a triple double with eight blocked shots. Davis was removed from the game with just over four minutes left in the game.
Jones also had his most impressive performance of the young season, leading all scorers with 26 points, narrowly missing a double-double with nine rebounds. Jones continued to display his all-around game by working inside and out to dominate St. John’s defenders.
Perhaps the most important player on this team is Doron Lamb. Lamb continues to be the most steady and consistent player Kentucky has going right now. The sophomore stand-out scored a quiet 16 points, but showed his ability to score a multitude of ways. Lamb knocked down two threes out of three attempts, displayed a strong mid-range game, and hit a couple of nice floaters. He really is one of the biggest keys to Kentucky’s success going forward.
Kentucky continues to give teams trouble by over powering them with their speed, length and athleticism. As St. John’s continued to try and penetrate the Wildcat defense, they were met relentlessly by Kentucky defenders at the basket. Kentucky blocked 18 shots on the night, including Davis’s eight and Jones’ four blocked shots.
In the first half, St. John’s really slowed the game down in an attempt to counteract Kentucky’s fast-pace. It was a great plan as they were able to keep the game close in the first half. However, they struggled to score and make shots when they had the opportunities, while Kentucky capitalized off of their missed shots and applied heavy half-court pressure. They forced several shot-clock violations against the Johnies who looked lost on the offensive end early on.
The slow pace seemed to effect Kentucky who struggled to get things going themselves on the offensive end, yet their superior skill reigned supreme. Even though they struggled to get into any rhythm, they still found ways to score and attack on the offensive end. Kentucky finished with 20 offensive rebounds, which led to a lot of their first half success. They had 18 second-chance points as well as 18 points off turnovers in a fine defensive effort.
The Cats also continue their willingness to share the basketball, as they throw more lobs and alley-oops than any team in the nation. Kentucky had 16 assists on the night including six from Darius Miller and five from Marquis Teague, and while they were busy forcing St. John’s turnovers, they only coughed up the ball 12 times themselves.
It was one of Kentucky’s most impressive wins of the season as they controlled the game nearly all the way through. They never wavered or seemed threatened by a Steve Laven-less St. John’s squad, and on a night when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Teague and Kyle Wiltjer combined for 12 points, Kentucky won soundly by a 22-point margin.
Kentucky will take their perfect 7-0 record and the nation’s top ranking into Saturday’s marquee matchup with North Carolina. The Tar Heels are coming off a big three-point win over an impressive Wisconsin team, after the Heels fell to UNLV last weekend.