In addition to any inclination to adopt the casual Caribbean lifestyle, Kentucky had other reasons to live and let live in Sunday’s finale of its exhibition series.
The Wildcats were playing their fourth game in five days, so perhaps the zeal shown here would be on dim. Plus, no matter how effectively UK played, it promised to pale next to Saturday’s exquisite rout of Mega Bemax.
Sure enough, Kentucky “settled” for decisively beating Team Toronto 93-60 to cap an unbeaten time in the Bahamas.
Reid Travis, whose earlier struggles here would probably move UK Coach John Calipari to remind everyone that players are not robots nor computers, posted a double-double. His growth as a graduate transfer took a leap forward.
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Travis scored 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Perhaps a further indication of his growing comfort as a UK player, he made not one but two three-pointers.
Four other UK players scored in double digits. Tyler Herro had 15, Quade Green 14, PJ Washington 14 and Keldon Johnson 13.
The opening minutes enhanced the anticlimactic feel to the game. A shot clock malfunction forced three stoppages of play inside the first 30 seconds.
UK’s first possession fizzled thereafter when Keldon Johnson shot an air ball from the left corner. That resulted in a shot clock violation.
What better way to say this game would differ from what assistant coach Joel Justus called UK’s “elite performance” in dismantling Mega Bemax less than 24 hours earlier?
Team Toronto scored the game’s first points. Normally, there would be no news there. But the 2-0 score marked UK’s first deficit since the second half of Wednesday’s game against the Bahamas Select Team.
Green’s shooting seemed to kick-start Kentucky. His two three-pointers and a baseline jumper came within two minutes and pushed UK to a 15-6 lead.
The early lead crested at 18-6. Then more oddities. Richards picked up two fouls within 48 seconds. One came on a push-off as he tried to establish offensive post position. The second came while defending the post and sent him to the bench for the final six-plus minutes.
Despite having three fouls, Herro fueled a 19-4 run in the final 4:19 that gave Kentucky its 39-19 halftime lead.
Herro picked up his third foul with 3:24 left. He stayed in the game and scored seven of his 10 first-half points in that span.
Travis, who came close to a double-double in the half (nine points, 10 rebounds), contributed a putback and two free throws off a rebound of a missed free throw.
Travis assured himself of a double-double with 16:51 left in the second half. He hit a foul-line jumper that put Kentucky ahead 48-24.
Later, Washington hit another three-pointer. That matched the trey he made against Mega Bemax. This time as he retreated downcourt, he put up three fingers to the side of his head.
One constant remained. UK did not let the score affect its competitive spirit.
With the lead at 68-42 inside the final eight minutes, Kentucky missed a shot. Ashton Hagans did not concede the rebound despite a Team Toronto player having position.
And after losing the rebound, Hagans hustled to get in position to steal the outlet pass. He merely deflected the ball out of bounds, but UK fans applauded thee effort.
Walk-on Jonny David capped Kentucky’s feel-good trip. With the crowd all but pleading for him to score, he drove and hit a flip shot in the lane with 6.5 seconds left to set the final score.