Five Things We Learned About Kentucky This Weekend
The Cats faced Louisville on Friday and Georgia on Sunday to close out 2017. It was a tough test for the young team but they came out with a blowout win over the Cards and a grind it out win over the Bulldogs. Here is what we learned.
- Shai is a baller– In the two games combined this weekend Gilgeous-Alexander had 45 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He was hands down the most dominant player in each game and that is a huge development. He may be the best player the Cats have brought off the bench since Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis on the 2015 team. He gives Kentucky a legitimate scoring threat capable of creating for himself or for teammates. He also showed that he knows how to draw fouls and to make free throws at a high percentage. He may not become a starter on this team but he will be a finisher in close games. His defensive ability allows him to impact the game on both ends of the floor which is huge.
- Wenyen Gabriel is figuring out his role– It has taken a little time but it seems that Wenyen is beginning to understand how Cal wants him to play. He grabbed 17 rebounds and gave great effort in both games. On top of that he has raised his 3 point shooting percentage to 43% on the season. Cal wants him to rebound, play with energy, and shoot open shots. The more Wenyen can zero in on doing those things the better it will be for the team.
- Quade Green is coming into his own– Shai got the most attention for his performance this weekend but Quade was close behind. He scored when the Cats needed someone to score and played winning basketball. He stepped up his defense in the 2nd half against Georgia and showed that he can be a difference maker on that side of the floor as well. Some narrow-minded fans may see the point guard spot as a battle between Shai and Quade but the reality is that the combo of both give the Cats a huge weapon. When Green plays well the team plays well which will continue to be a key going forward.
- Kevin Knox needs to get back on track– He struggled in both of the wins and just couldn’t get it going on offense. Kentucky needs Knox to be a dominant player if they hope to reach their full potential. The one positive about his struggles this weekend is that the Cats had to find a way to win in spite of them. Knox has to find some ways to get easy baskets instead of relying on making tough jumpers. His skill and size make him a tough match up for opponents. He just has to learn how to use his advantages to their fullest extent. Cal will help him figure it out but the sooner it happens the better for Kentucky.
- This team is still Jekyll and Hyde but that should be expected– A team full of freshmen and inexperienced sophomores is going to have its share of ups and downs. One minute they look like world beaters running Louisville out of the gym in the 2nd half. The next minute they looked terrible in the 1st half against Georgia. Some fans struggle to reconcile the polar opposites but the truth is that the team is a little of both extremes. They are a very young and vulnerable team at this point. They are also a very talented and dangerous team. On any given night they could lose, especially on the road in the SEC. As they gain experience they will become more consistent but it could be March before it happens. The point is not to freak out when you see drastic swings in how they look from one game to the next.
In year nine with Coach Cal at the helm BBN should be fairly familiar with how things work. My word of advice for those that still haven’t figured it out, trust the process.