So it’s an exhibition game in August but watching the Kentucky basketball team lower the Bahama boom and throttled the Dominican Republic U22 Select team 108-56 certainly raised some eyebrows and expectations of what’s in store when the season actually tips off in less than 3 months.
It gave Big Blue Nation a chance to put last season’s heartbreaking early first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament to St. Peters in the rear-view mirror and focus on what lies ahead,
Granted the competition was put together recently and even had a player who spoke no Spanish, but it was a live opponent for John Calipari to look at how to assemble his team and the parts he has to work with.
Calipari didn’t coach at all, instead opting to watch from a different vantage point in the Baha Mar Grand Ballroom in Nassau, Bahamas. He took a lot of notes and yelled a lot of “Go” and run gestures.
Orlando Antigua was the head coach for the night and swapped multiple lineups in and out which we will see over the four games in five days tour. A different starting lineup for each half in each game is promised so we could see as many as eight different ones.
On the floor first were Sahvir Wheeler, Antonio Reeves, Jacob Toppin, Daimion Collins, and Oscar Tshiebwe. While this represented a very veteran fivesome, I don’t think they can afford to have Collins and Toppin playing much at the same time. Purely for offensive outside scoring reasons as both prefer slashing the lane to the basket.
Nonetheless, all the players we saw brought their “game” to showcase in the Islands. Tshiebwe as expected led the charge with 17 points and six rebounds.
Kentucky basketball started strong and didn’t take the foot off the gas
Despite jumping out to a fast start defensively forcing the Dominican team to four turnovers and the Cats lead 9-5 before the first media timeout we were waiting for Kentucky to fall back to its ways of taking the foot off the gas and allowing teams to hang around as was the case last season.
Wrong – it was pedal to the metal.
Kentucky’s defense rejected seven shots and swiped eight steals while forcing the Dominicans into 11 first-half turnovers and led 43-25 at the break.
Illinois State transfer Reeves drained three from behind the arc in the half. He finished the game with 15 points draining 4 of 5 treys in the game.
To open the second half we had Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Collins, and Lance Ware. They promptly scored nine straight points as Fredrick found Livingston for a corner three, and Ware, Collins and Wallace slammed down dunks.
Kentucky shot 26-41 (63.4 percent) in the second half and tallied three blocks and five steals.
Collins is the X-Factor and he left his mark
I said yesterday we wanted to see how much of an X-Factor Collins would and could be this season. Well, this may answer that.
The Dominican team thought they were experiencing deja-vu as Collins slammed down a pair of these nearly identical hammers along the baseline.
He could only smile when SEC Network commentators Tom Hart and Dane Bradshaw asked him about those afterward along with a smooth jumper from the top of the lane.
Come on Daimion you know you loved that.
Collins finished with 15 points on 6-9 shooting to go with, five rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and one steal. Had it been a regular-season game, Collins’ point total and assists both would have been career highs.