Kentucky basketball: Finally something to smile about after Wildcats romp

Kentucky’s Devin Askew
Kentucky’s Devin Askew /
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528. Final. 64. 533. 92

Everybody have fun today so the Kentucky basketball team did just that

To say this has been a long, long, long regular season for this Kentucky basketball team would be an understatement. But for 40 minutes they were able to close out the regular season with smiles, high fives, and good vibes after rolling over South Carolina 92-64.

For once we don’t and won’t dwell on the missed shots, the turnovers, the droughts, the head-scratching moments, and just enjoy the outcome as the players and even coach John Calipari was able to do.

We saw Calipari sitting in his chair most of the game coaching and not stomping, screaming at midcourt, and better yet his head not buried in his hands. He was trying to get as many players minutes in most of their final game in Rupp Arena. In all 14 players made their way to the scorer’s table.

The end result was the largest lead of the game for the Wildcats (9-15, 8-9) and also marked the season-high point total as well. The Wildcats own the series with South Carolina 53-13 but avenged last year’s 81-78 loss.

The 28-point win was the largest margin of victory for the Wildcats since a 36-point triumph over Morehead State in their season opener.

Isaiah Jackson, Olivier Sarr, Davion Mintz, and Brandon Boston Jr. each had stellar games in their own way. There is no way to name an MVP for this contest. Jacob Toppin got the starting nod while role players like Lance Ware, Keion Brooks Jr, and Dontaie Allen each added an element to the fun. Devin Askew came off the bench for 19 minutes which seemed to suit him better. Zen Payne scored his first two points of the year.

Calipari said afterward he was pleased he got to play so many people.

"“I got to play Lance (Ware). I got to play Dontaie (Allen) and again, I mean, poor Dontaie and I love the kid. He and I have talked individually but it was so much on him that — let him go shoot every ball. And these kids, they are — you know, they know, you know, who they are, what they are, what they can do, and any time you’re trying to have a kid do more than he is, it’s just — it’s not fair to the kids, and so what I said today and I told them, I’m playing you. I don’t care if you miss shots, make them; shoot the ball. “"

Mintz and Boston each dropped in six 3-pointers in the game moving them into the category with players Jeff Brassow, Tony Delk (twice), Jeff Sheppard, Patrick Sparks, and Darius Miller to each sink six treys in a game against the Gamecocks.

The Wildcats dropped in 13 of 27 from long range (48.1 percent) and were 33 of 67 (49.3 percent) shooting overall. They have been relying on free throws to keep them in games and it helped as usual making good on 13 of 18.

On Tuesday it was Ole Miss cleaning Kentucky on the glass and the end result was a frustrating loss. Against South Carolina, it was UK winning the battle 46-36. The turnovers and assists were even at 17, but many of the Wildcat miscues came late with subs playing.

Even more impressive was the Kentucky defense that held the Gamecocks to just 2 of 17 from the 3-point range (11 percent) and 26 of 66 shooting overall.

Another stat that allowed the Wildcats to play loose and free was the lack of bad fouls they committed. Despite being whistled for 17 overall no player had more than 3 called on them.

Kentucky led for much of the first half except for a brief 1:48 that the Gamecocks held it. The Wildcats down the stretch though held South Carolina without a field goal in the final 3:48 of the half to take a 36-28 lead.

When the second half started Kentucky bolted out and never looked back finally able to step on the gas and cruise to victory.

This was simply a game to sit in your recliner enjoying and cheering this team like Big Blue Nation is accustomed to doing.