Mark Story

Instant analysis: Who’s up, who’s down after UK’s 87-52 win over Vanderbilt

NBA advice put on display in Kentucky victory

PJ Washington relishes emergence as UK standout
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PJ Washington relishes emergence as UK standout

Instant analysis (gleaned via the ESPN telecast of the game) from No. 7 Kentucky’s 87-52 win over Vanderbilt:

How the game was won

PJ Washington (18 points) outscored Vanderbilt’s team (15) in the first half as Kentucky roared to a 45-15 halftime lead and crushed struggling Vandy.

Game balls

1. PJ Washington. The UK sophomore forward (26 points, 12 rebounds) had his third straight 20-plus-points scoring game and second straight double-double. He’s playing like a star.

2. Kentucky defense. In a suffocating first half, the Cats’ “D” held hapless Vandy to five field goals (5-of-20) and all but no easy looks at the basket.

3. Tyler Herro. Proving he really is more than a stationary shooter, the UK freshman again shot poorly from three-point range (0-of-3) but nevertheless played a strong (12 points, three rebounds, three steals, two assists) game.

4. UK bench scoring. One game after getting no points from reserves against Kansas, Kentucky’s four primary bench players — Nick Richards (14 points), Jemarl Baker (six), Immanuel Quickley (six) and EJ Montgomery (four) — combined for 30 points.

Reasons for worry

1. Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis. Two Kentucky starters went scoreless in the first half (and the Cats were still up 30 at halftime).

2. Peaking. Has UK hit top form earlier in the season than is ideal?

3. Vanderbilt. One crucial injury (to freshman point guard Darius Garland) and one heart-breaking defeat (in overtime to No. 1 Tennessee last week after leading by six inside the final two minutes) seems to have stripped the fight out of the Commodores.

4. “Rockin’ Little Heartbeat.” I kind of liked that Jimmy Dykes-written and performed country song they dug up and played on the ESPN broadcast to pass time during Tuesday night’s blowout.

That’s far and away the night’s most worrisome occurrence.

Key number(s)

Four and one. Kentucky is now 4-1 in true road games in 2018-19. That is a big improvement on last season, when UK went 4-6 on the home courts of opponents.

Up next

No. 7 Kentucky (17-3, 6-1 SEC) will stay on the road and travel to Gainesville to face Florida (11-8, 3-3 SEC) Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on the campus of the University of Florida.

Before facing the Wildcats, Coach Michael White’s Gators will play Mississippi Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. (EST) in Gainesville in a game that will be telecast by the SEC Network.

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Florida 100-40 but the Gators have won three of the past four, including both meetings last season.

Know your foe

1. Since replacing Billy Donovan as Gators head man beginning with the 2015-16 season, Michael White is 3-3 against UK. As Kentucky head man, John Calipari is 14-8 vs. Florida, but only 4-5 vs. the Gators in Gainesville.

2. Florida is 1-2 so far this season in SEC home games, having fallen to South Carolina (71-69) and No. 1 Tennessee (78-67) and beaten Texas A&M (81-72) in Gainesville.

3. Senior guard KeVaughn Allen (12.7 ppg) and freshman guard Noah Locke (11.2 ppg) are the only Gators averaging in double figures in scoring. As a team, Florida has not shot the ball especially well (42 percent on field goals, 68.1 percent on foul shots).

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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