David Leveridge- Kentucky Basketball Beat Writer
Kentucky opened their pre- season exhibition schedule with the Thomas More Saints. Although, the game wasn’t pretty UK still prevailed with a forty -two point victory, Kentucky 103 / Thomas More 61. Kentucky started 5 freshmen in the scrimmage starting #00, Quade Green, #03 Hamidou Diallo, # 04 Nick Richards, #5 Kevin Knox, and #25 PJ Washington. Kentucky fans have seen the Wildcats on the floor twice this season, Big Blue Madness, and the Blue and White game, both have been scrimmages amongst teammates.
As the regular season approaches it was nice to see the CATS compete against another team. Kentucky was a heavy favorite in the game, and realistically no one gave the Thomas More Saints a chance on beating the Kentucky Wildcats. Thomas More a Division two school from Northern, Kentucky had a starting five line-up all from Kentucky. Several of the Saints players were UK fans growing up, and many would have come to UK if given the opportunity to play for the prestigious University.
Kentucky gets the opening tip, scoring on the opening possession with a lob from Diallo to Kevin Knox. The play brought the Rupp Arena Crowd to its feet, and set the tempo for the game. After Kentucky scored on the opening possession, Kentucky defense opened up with a full court press. Calipari has never been a coach to utilize the press very often, but the length and athleticism of this year’s Kentucky Wildcats will be used more often than UK is accustomed to. Kentucky’s offensive struggles were evident early in the game as UK missed several open Jump Shot opportunities. Diallo who follows in the footsteps of Malik Monk, and Jamal Murray has been built as the most athletic shooting guard to dawn the Blue and White in several years. While Diallo is an athletic phenomena Diallo shooting stroke was off as he was 3 for 8 shooting inside the perimeter and 0 for 3 shooting behind the arc in the first half. UK did show moments of awe, with spectacular plays and good defensive pressure. On Back to back possessions in the first half the crowd witnessed two of the most memorable moments of the game. With 9:56 remaining in the first half Freshmen Kevin Knox steals the ball from the Saints, getting in transition with open court in front of him. Knox finishes the play with a thunderous 2 hand dunk. On the next possession UK again steals the ball with the steal from Quade Green, Green Finds Sophomore Wenyen Gabriel streaking down the court for an over the top lob. Gabriel finished the play with a one hand dunk. UK had three players get in early foul trouble during the half, Starter Nick Richards had four, Reserves Sacha Killeya- Jones and Shea Gilgeuos- Alexander each had three. The foul issue will only improve as the season progresses, and the CATS become better conditioned. At the half UK led Thomas More Saints by twenty- three points, Kentucky 53- Thomas More 30.
Kentucky Continued their dominance in the second half and increased the lead. Kentucky showed glimpses of a team that can be very good in transition, athletic as any team in the country, and a defensive juggernaut. Kentucky is deeper this year than in years past, but doesn’t have any upper-class man that will contribute to the team’s success. Basically the team’s top eight guys are either Freshmen or Sophomores. For Kentucky to contend and advance in the NCAA tournament the shooting will have to improve. From what I seen during the Game, UK will have to improve the shooting and shot selections. Kentucky shot a combined total of sixteen three- point baskets during the game, only connecting with five and a 31 % shooting percentage for the game. Kevin Knox had a great all around game, finishing with twenty- seven points, five rebounds, one block, two steals, and one block playing twenty- eight of the forty minutes during the game. If Knox can Continue his play he will be a fan favorite come mid -season, and a potential lottery Selection in Next year’s NBA Draft. Hamidou Diallo who didn’t shoot the ball very well from Behind the ARC being 0-3 during the game, Contributed with his raw athletic ability. Diallo can electrify the crowd with his athleticism and displayed it several times during the game. On one play in the Second half UK gets the ball in transition with Green Leading the break, Green Finds Diallo behind the defense. Green throws an over the top lob to Diallo who finished with a one hand dunk. The play was one of the highlights of the night, and impressed everyone fortunate enough to witness the play. Kentucky goes on to defeat the Thomas More Saints by forty- two points, Kentucky 103- Thomas More 61.
- #04 Nick Richards- 14 points scored, 3 total rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 block, 1 steal, playing 17 minutes.
- #05 Kevin Knox- 27 points( game high), 5 total rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 block, 2 steal, playing 28 minutes.
- #25 PJ Washington- 15 points, 10 total rebounds, 4 turnovers, 1 block, 1 steal, playing 29 minutes.
- #00 Quade Green- 9 points, seven assists, 2 turnovers playing 25 minutes.
- #03 Hamidou Diallo- 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 1 block, 2 steals, playing 25 minutes.
- #01 Sacha Killeya- Jones- 4 points, 8 total rebounds, 2 turnovers, playing 17 minutes.
- #10 Johnny David- 2 points, 1 rebound, I turnover, playing 2 minutes.
- #22 Shai Gilgeous- Alexander- 9 points, five rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 block, 1 steal, playing 27 minutes.
- #32 Wenyen Gabriel- 11 points, 10 total rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 2 blocks, 1 steal, playing 22 minutes.
- Kentucky FG % Game 38-69 55.1%
- Kentucky 3 PT FG % Game 8-25 31.3%
- Kentucky FT % game 22-30 73.3 %
Thomas More 61
- #03 Brandon Horne- 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers, 1 steal, playing 22 minutes.
- #25 Austin Young – 7 points, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, playing 26 minutes.
- #32 Simon Clifford- 3 points, 1 turnover, playing 17 minutes.
- #05 Damion King- 13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 1 steal, playing 27 minutes.
- #10 Ryne Callahan- 9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, playing 21 minutes.
- #02 Ralph Stone- 5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, playing 20 minutes.
- #04 Michael Griffin- 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 turnover, playing 15 minutes.
- #11 Kedan Davis- 1 point, on a free throw playing 2 minutes.
- #13 Ryan Baker- 6 points, 2 assists, 1 turnover, playing 11 minutes.
- #24 Garren Bertsch- 4 points, 3 turnovers, playing 6 minutes.
- #34 Junior Stockwell- 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover, playing 15 minutes.
- Thomas More FG % game 16-54 29.6%
- Thomas More 3PT FG % 8-25 32%
- Thomas More Free Throw percentage game 21-27 77.8 %
Coach Cal Was asked several Questions by the media during the post- game press conference. Here is a recap of the some of the interesting Quotes from Coach Calipari during the press conference. Quotes have been provided by UK athletics.
- Why is it that your team is not in condition? They have worked all summer, why can’t you have a guy that can play more than three minutes?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s totally different when you’re walking in and you’re in this building in front of people, you’ve got anxiety, and now you run in here and you start running up and down and it’s basketball conditioning kind of shape. Totally different. It just takes time. You would say, ‘well, why would that NBA team not be in mid-season form right now?’ Conditioning, well you just play into it. Some of it is, it’s like playing a team that’s really quick and fast and you think you can do something. No, you got to get used to playing them and then figure it out as you go and hope you play them three or four times. This team will be fine. It’s not like they’re in awful shape, but as a freshman would do, it’s hard to play a full possession. So you saw at the end of the half or end of the game a guy gets beat and then instead of expecting help or moving his feet he just fouls. Just stop the play. Give them two free throws. But I’ve got to watch the tape. I told them ‘I’m going to watch the tape, we’ll do tape work tomorrow and then we’ll practice tomorrow afternoon, but there were some good things and there were some things that I expected to happen, which I’ll be able to show on tape.Q. What was your thinking on starting five freshmen and then bringing in the relatively experienced guys in off the bench?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well the only relatively experienced (one) was Wenyen. And then I started him in the second half. This game Monday I may start a different lineup, just to see. I thought when we made that substitution that we did not do what I thought, but again it was Shai and Wenyen. We’re all like new guys trying to figure each other out. provided by Timothy Letcher of Uk athletics.
Players also addressed the media with interviews by Kevin Knox, Quade Green, and Wenyen Gabriel. UK athletics also provided the quotes from the players.
#5, Kevin Knox, Freshman, Forward
On the first exhibition game with competition …
“Oh yeah it was good to get out here and play against somebody else. We’ve been beating each other up for the last couple months so Coach Cal was big on us coming out here, being aggressive and making sure that we can take all the stuff we’ve been working on and put it against them.”
#32Wenyen Gabriel, Sophomore, Forward
On how he thinks he played …
“I think I played with a lot of energy out there. There were a couple things I did wrong, and think I could have done better. As a team overall, we did pretty good though.”
Kentucky opened Exhibition play with a convincing win. Kentucky has a lot to improve on and will take time for the team to gel. In two weeks Kentucky will begin regular season play against Utah Valley on Friday November 10th, 2017. Kentucky’s next exhibition will be the Kentucky cares charity classic game against The Morehead State Eagles on Monday October 30, 2017. All proceeds from this game go to the victims of recent of the recent hurricanes of Harvey and Irma. Bluegrass Sports Nation will be in attendance covering the game, bringing you the best possible coverage of sports in our area.