Kentucky Basketball rinse and repeat as Cats easily handle Chippewas

Kentucky Wildcats Kellan Grady, Bryce Hopkins, Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler. (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats Kellan Grady, Bryce Hopkins, Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler. (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports) /

It was another rinse and repeat kind of night for the Kentucky basketball team for the sixth game in a row getting very little fight from their non-conference foes coming to Rupp for a beating. Monday it was Central Michigan who left with an 85-57 loss.

The Chippewas who are coached by Tony Barbee in his first season after serving as Kentucky coach John Calipari’s assistant the past six seasons only led for 18 seconds of the game.

Once again No. 9 Kentucky (6-1) got up by a large margin at the half and sleepwalked through the second half with cold shooting and little excitement except for slam dunks.

Big Blue doubled up Central Michigan at the break 51-25 knocking down 20 of 38 field goals including 5 of 7 from behind the arc from TyTy Washington, Kellan Grady, and Keion Brooks. The outburst was the most points at halftime since the Cats hung 51 on Winthrop in 2018.

Kentucky basketball runs to a big halftime lead but a lethargic second half

Oscar Tshiebwe was pulling down rebounds and ruling the boards. He finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds and was able to get to the free-throw line where he cashed in on 8 of 11 attempts. He has hit double-digit rebounding in every game.  He also contributed three steals and a blocked shot.

But like in this run of seven straight home games the second half started and as quiet as the Rupp Arena crowd was so were the UK player’s shots.

Instead of putting their opponent away UK only outscored them 34-32 in the final 20 minutes due to some icy 11 of 34 field goal shooting and a horrific 2 for 19 from 3-point range. They could have easily exerted their will and might from inside the arc and paint but instead chose to launch bombs away that clanged away.

Jacob Toppin addressed the question of getting big leads and then slowing down from the media after the game.

"“It’s hard because we get up big and then we try to slow down, and Coach Calipari always preaches to keep the foot on the gas pedal, and that is what we need to do. I think we’re getting better at that once we get a lead. We’re still pushing the ball, we’re still moving the ball, and we’re still sharing and getting the shots that we want.”"

Still, a win is a win and that apparently is what Calipari is looking for before the meat of the schedule in December gets underway. The Cats will now only play 2 games in the next 19 days with the next game not until Southern comes on December 7 and then at Notre Dame on December 11.

It was the usual balance of players who showed and those who didn’t

Oscar did what Oscar does getting his 20 points and exactly his 16 rebound average.

Washington continues to mold himself in nicely to the starting line up knocking down 6 of 11 field goals and 3 of 5 threes to net 15 points, grabbed six boards, and a pair of assists.

Sahvir Wheeler was his steady self with seven points, six assists, and two assists as well.

Keion Brooks returned after getting pulled just prior to the start of Friday’s 86-52 win over North Florida with 9 points and pulled down four rebounds.

Jacob Toppin seemed to have his hop back as well after missing several games due to an injury hitting all three of his field goals for seven points. He brought the crowd to its feet with a soaring dunk down the free throw lane off a pass from Brooks.

Bryce Hopkins looked better going for six points, four rebounds, and three assists in earning 17 minutes of playing time including starting the second half. Something you don’t see Cal do often changing the lineup from the original staters.

While Dontaie Allen continues to draw bricks on his shooting Calipari decided to let him play 19 minutes despite hitting only 3 of 11 shots with 1 of 7 from downtown missing their mark.

Daimion Collins also disappeared getting just three points, all at the foul line, and attempted just one shot in 13 minutes.

It appears this team can play a complete 40 minutes but the lack of competition isn’t lending itself to this.

Get healthy and get ready for the season to really begin in December

Kentucky won its six games in November by a total of 170 points or 23.6 points after a dogfight 79-71 loss in the season opener to Duke. They have not been challenged since that game 20 days prior.

There are just six games on the December slate with Southern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Louisville, Missouri, and High Point with the return of Tubby Smith on December 31.

We have yet to see a full and healthy bench for this squad and its full potential.

Calipari talked about how he hardly had any guys ready to play on Monday night.

"“Now we’ve got another game next week and we’re getting a little break. And it comes at a great time because we’re sick. Today, Daimion [Collins] didn’t do the shoot-around because he had a high fever. With Keion [Brooks], we didn’t know if he would play until right before the game, and you saw that he was tired. He looked tired. Lance [Ware], I think that ankle is still bothering him. Davion hopefully will be ready for the game next week. Bryce [Hopkins], his back has been bothering him. We have been beat up. We need now a couple days. They’re going to have off tomorrow and they’ll have off Wednesday.”"

They will need to get healthy and focused when they go into a hostile Joyce Center on December 11 to face Notre Dame. Then off to Las Vegas for the CBS Sports Classic to play Ohio State.

This team is fun to watch, they love playing together and Big Blue Nation is chomping at the bit to see them take down the big boys coming up.

They are still without the services of Davion Mintz for the second straight game and his return is unknown.

Big Blue has dominated the boards, learned to play without Big O when in foul trouble and through illness. Now they just need some stiff competition to toughen them up a bit more. They have outrebounded every opponent this season with an average difference of 19.5 per game.

Well, have fun talking sports because there is no football or basketball until next Tuesday when the Cats are back on the Rupp Arena floor. A Saturday with neither is going to be weird.

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