Kentucky’s Blue-White Game on Sunday night suggested that reinforcing the Rupp Arena rims this coming season would be a good idea.
That wasn’t that the UK players shot bricks, to use basketball parlance. It was more so the many times those players drove, dunked and otherwise showcased a predominance of play in the paint.
Of the game’s 84 baskets, there were six dunks or layups off lobs, nine dunks that did not involve a lob pass, 27 layups and nine putbacks.
That made for 51 baskets from the paint. Of the game’s 200 points (the Blue team won 104-96), 108 came from the paint.
Reid Travis, the graduate transfer expected to provide muscle and inside play, did so. He finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. He produced for both teams, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds for the White team in the first half, then adding 11 points and six rebounds for the Blue team in the second.
Travis also made perimeter shots, which NBA scouts suggested would be a good addition to his game.
Ditto for PJ Washington. He, too, dunked and drove and pulled up for a jump shot that his experience with the pre-draft process earlier this year told him he needed to improve his NBA profile. He finished with 23 points.
Freshman Tyler Herro led all scorers with 34 points. He made four of six three-point shots.
Overall, the players made 13 of 35 three-point shots.
Kentucky will play the first of its two preseason exhibition games on Friday against Transylvania.
The get-acquainted service provided by the Blue-White Game became apparent almost immediately. When EJ Montgomery scored the game’s first basket, public address announcer Patrick Whitmer told the crowd Reid Travis scored.
The attack-the-rim approach that has become a signature component of Kentucky’s offense under Calipari was on display in the first half. Of the teams’ 42 baskets, 25 came either through the rim or in its shadow.
There were four lobs converted into dunks, plus another four dunks not set up by a pass over the rim.
Thirteen times a player drove for a layup. Another four baskets were putbacks.
It wasn’t like the players abandoned the three-point shot. They were prudent in shooting it. The teams combined to make six of 15 three-point shots. Six different players made shots from beyond the arc: Quade Green, Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans, Jemarl Baker and Tyler Herro.
Travis led all first-half scorers with 16 points. After a quiet first 11 minutes, he came alive. He scored all of his points in the final nine minutes. That included perimeter jumpers, putbacks, a dunk and a confident pull-up from just inside the foul line.
Arguably, Nick Richards had the first half’s most memorable score. He took a pass at the foul line. As defenders retreated, presumably to close off passing lanes, he all but shrugged and drove down the middle of the lane and threw down a dunk.
Early in the second half, a sequence drew a chuckle from fans. On the White team’s second possession, Hagans drove for a layup that Richards blocked from behind. Hagans crumpled to the floor and Richards stood over him momentarily as if to say don’t bring that weak stuff around the rim.
Two possessions later brought a replay of sorts. Hagans again drove toward the basket, this time crossing the lane. Richards again blocked the shot and Hagans again fell to the floor. This time, Hagans looked back at a referee as if waiting for a call that never came.
The announced attendance of 15,377 marked the fourth-largest crowd in Blue-White Game history.
The record is 16,089 in 2016. The second-most came last year: 15,530.
Exhibition: Transylvania at Kentucky
7 p.m. Friday (SEC Network)