Mark Story

Instant analysis: Who’s up, who’s down after UK’s 78-61 win over UNC Greensboro

Photo slideshow: Kentucky defeats UNC Greensboro 78-61

The Kentucky men's basketball team defeated UNC Greensboro 78-61 Saturday, Dec, 1, 2018, at Rupp Arena.
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The Kentucky men's basketball team defeated UNC Greensboro 78-61 Saturday, Dec, 1, 2018, at Rupp Arena.

Instant analysis from No. 10 Kentucky’s 78-61 win over UNC Greensboro:

How the game was won

Reid Travis (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Keldon Johnson (13 points, 11 boards) went for double-doubles as Kentucky used a late 22-4 run to erase a 57-56 deficit and register a well-earned victory over an experienced, quality UNC Greensboro team.

Game balls

1. The 2018-19 Kentucky Wildcats. Grinding out a victory over a good, veteran team like UNC Greensboro is how a young team progresses.

2. Reid Travis. His production isn’t always pretty, but Kentucky would be in a world of hurt without the Stanford graduate transfer.

3. The Keldon Johnson aerial show. Those baseline-drive dunks in the second half rocked.

4. Ashton Hagans’ defense. It appeared UNC Greensboro’s Francis Alonso was going to score 40 before the UK freshman guard’s harrassing ‘D’ slowed the Spanish guard’s roll.

5. Rupp Arena crowd. Given the season’s first close game, the fans rose to the occasion. The atmosphere was loud and lively.

Running suicide drills

1. Kentucky dribble-penetration defenders. For all the attention UK’s difficulty guarding at the three-point line has gotten early this season, the Cats’ difficulty staying in front of drivers might actually be the bigger problem.

Key number(s)

88 and 1. In the John Calipari-coaching era, Kentucky is now 88-1 against teams from outside the seven major men’s college basketball conferences (the football Power Five plus the Big East and The American). The one loss came at Robert Morris, 59-57, in the first round of the 2013 NIT.

The Cat-mosphere

Rupp Arena’s giant video screens contained a tribute to former U.S. President George H.W. Bush during the National Anthem. Bush, 94, died Friday in Houston.

It was a late-arriving crowd for a 1 p.m. tip-off, but the season’s first Saturday home game and a respectable opponent brought easily the best crowd (announced at 21,853) of the 2018-19 Kentucky home season to date.

During the first TV timeout of the second half, former Kentucky players Sam Bowie, Jack Givens and Kenny Walker, along with John Calipari, appeared in a video to wish ex-UK head man Joe B. Hall a happy birthday. A Wildcats cheerleader presented Hall with a birthday cake and the Rupp Arena crowd gave Joe B. a standing ovation. Hall, who was in his familiar seat on the front row, turned 90 on Friday.

Up next

Kentucky (7-1) will face Seton Hall (4-3) at noon Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden in New York City in a game being billed as the Citi Hoops Classic.

Coach Kevin Willard’s Pirates lost to Louisville 70-65 Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Seton Hall entered the U of L game after winning the Wooden Legacy by beating Grand Canyon, Hawaii and Miami (Fla.).

Guard Myles Powell, a 6-2 junior, is Seton Hall’s star. He entered the U of L contest averaging 24.3 points per game.

Powell is the only starter back from a Seton Hall team that went 22-12 a season ago and beat North Carolina State in the NCAA Tournament round of 64 before falling 83-79 to eventual Final Four entrant Kansas in the round of 32.

Willard, 43, is the son of former Kentucky and Louisville assistant and Western Kentucky head coach Ralph Willard, and was a standout high school player at Bowling Green High School.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory

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