Kentucky as soon as once more discovered itself in an early gap towards the shot-heavy Saint Joseph’s Hawks, down 7-2 simply two minutes in. The Wildcats clawed again to tie it with 12:38 to go within the first half, then took their first lead on the halfway level (20-17). They received it as much as eight on the ultimate TV timeout earlier than the break, solely to see the opposition go on an 11-3 run of its personal to tie it up within the ultimate minute.
Tre Mitchell nails a 3-pointer with 33 seconds to go to take a 3-point lead, adopted by a block on the opposite finish by the graduate switch to carry on going into the locker room.
That was the scouting report on Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks have been going to take and make pictures, unfazed by the group or second. This staff returned 70% of its minutes from a season in the past and ranked top-15 in three-point price, practically 40% of factors coming from deep. They definitely weren’t going to go down with no battle.
They gave the Wildcats loads of possibilities to fold, a development that continued into the second half. Up 9, minimize to 1. Again up eight, all the way down to a tie, then a lead change within the ultimate minute of regulation.
Tre Mitchell putback dunk to retake the lead and pave the way in which for additional time in Lexington. After which he adopted it up with back-to-back threes to open the additional interval, sufficient cushion to primarily seal it.
Do you see a theme right here?
Tre Mitchell leads the cost in ‘the second’
Each time Saint Joseph’s made an enormous play, Kentucky responded. Large pictures have been adopted by huge pictures, scoring woes balanced by stops and hard-fought rebounds. Time and time once more, the Wildcats got here up with solutions. The resolve this program lacked at instances lately broke via within the type of three gamers hitting the 20-point mark and 5 in double figures with a 24-9 assist-to-turnover ratio. The rebounding battle was misplaced 42-37 and the Hawks got here up with 15 made 3-pointers general, however within the face of adversity, Kentucky threw the ultimate haymaker.
“A staff makes 15 threes and you determine how one can win,” John Calipari stated. “You make free throws, you make performs, you get rebounds down the stretch, you battle to win with a bunch of younger guys. It’s good. You play a recreation that you might have misplaced, however you found out how one can win.”
Calipari described Mitchell’s clutch pictures as ‘the second’ whereas raving about contributions from DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Antonio Reeves, Rob Dillingham and Adou Thiero earlier than later stressing Reed Sheppard‘s worth on the ground in a scoreless effort. “It seems as if he has received to be in (on the finish of the sport),” he stated. However the general staff mindset is what stood out over any particular person efficiency.
“One staff is enjoying with home cash and we’re enjoying with, ‘We’ve received to win.’ They usually by no means — it by no means fazed them,” Calipari stated. “… We shot a excessive share, we solely had 9 turnovers — two of our guys had six of these 9 — and we performed an excellent staff, a veteran staff. And they didn’t go away.”
DJ Wagner lastly breaks via
Wagner lastly received issues found out after a sluggish begin to the season, ending with 22 factors on 7-17 taking pictures and 7-8 from the road to go along with six assists and three rebounds. He scored 10 within the second half alone, then seven in additional time — 5-9 taking pictures in that stretch. Just a few moments of tunnel imaginative and prescient and a questionable look on the potential game-winner to shut out regulation, however the battle was there. He regarded to place the staff on his again and got here up huge most of the time in crunch time, his end-of-shot-clock left-handed layup to place Kentucky up six with 1:30 to go being the most effective instance.
Not good, nevertheless it was undoubtedly a step in the best path.
“D.J. performed higher, simply beginning to see who he’s,” Calipari stated. “… I used to be so pleased D.J. busted via. You need guys to really feel like their exhausting work is paying off.”
Birthday boy goes for an environment friendly 20
Antonio Reeves added 20 of his personal on a wildly environment friendly 7-9 taking pictures and 3-3 from three to go along with 5 rebounds, three assists, one block and nil turnovers in 32 minutes. And he carried quite a lot of that scoring load early, going for 13 within the first half. He was calculated and endurance along with his shot choice, and it paid off along with his third 20-plus-point recreation of the season to turn out to be the primary Wildcat since Julius Randle to hit that mark in three of the primary 5 video games of the season.
And he did it on his birthday, no much less.
“I simply performed within the circulation of the sport,” Reeves stated after the win. “Once they got here to me, I simply wished to have the ability to knock it down. I didn’t wish to take any dangerous pictures — it was a detailed recreation. So I simply tried to play inside the offense.”
“Antonio made pictures,” Calipari added.
These three gamers turned the primary Kentucky trio to attain 20-plus in a recreation collectively since John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. 14 years between these two moments. Each groups equally enjoyable to open their respective seasons.
Rob Dillingham is must-see TV (but additionally contributes to profitable)
Rob Dillingham made an all-around impression, as nicely, ending with 13 factors on 5-10 taking pictures and 2-3 from three to go along with six assists, 5 rebounds, one steal and only one turnover in 26 minutes. Like Reeves, Dillingham made an early impression, as nicely, with 10 of his factors coming earlier than the break on an environment friendly 4-6 taking pictures with two makes from deep.
He had one quick-twitch stop-and-go down the lane for a clean lay-in on the rim, together with a ridiculous pull-up three in transition. The dude simply continues to provide, giving the Wildcats 5 straight video games in double figures to open the season.
There’s a lovely chaos to Dillingham’s recreation that Calipari continues to be determining how one can maximize — and he’s having fun with each second of it.
“Robert Dillingham does what he does,” he stated. “… I’m nonetheless attempting to determine the staff. When do you let Robert go, let him go do some bit extra? We did that in factors on this recreation. I additionally ran one in every of our grind-it-out offenses that I’ve not used this yr, and Robert makes a shot out of it.”
Laying the muse for a particular season
It wasn’t good, nevertheless it was sufficient. And it confirmed rather a lot. Kentucky pulled off its first additional time win since knocking off Mississippi State in double-OT two seasons in the past, two losses in further intervals since then.
This isn’t the completed product and there may be loads of room for enchancment, however the Wildcats are studying to play profitable basketball and doing so in a variety of methods. They’ve gained in blowouts and overcome sluggish begins. They’ve gained grind-it-out video games whereas additionally placing collectively dominant stretches towards elite competitors — the Wildcats know what it feels prefer to go up 14 factors towards the No. 1 staff within the nation.
We don’t even know what this group appears like with bigs. Even a single 7-footer would give us a style of what it’s prefer to have rim safety and rebounding, regardless of Mitchell’s Herculean efforts because the one-man present down low with some assist from an out-of-position Jordan Burks. But, right here we’re. 4 video games of single-digit turnovers whereas enjoying selfless basketball. 12 made 3-pointers for a 3rd consecutive double-figure mark from deep, a feat that hasn’t been reached since 2016 — a five-game streak on the time. 12 makes in three straight video games can also be probably the most since 1994.
Possibly the most effective stat? Two Kentucky groups have scored not less than 81 factors in every of their first 5 video games. One was the 1992-93 squad that gained 30 video games and made a Ultimate 4, averaging 87.5 factors per contest alongside the way in which.
This staff is the opposite.