Three quick takeaways from Kentucky’s 99-76 win over Ole Miss in Oxford.
1. If you let Kentucky run, you’ll get run over
Last week, Louisville concentrated on getting good shots to limit Kentucky’s fast break opportunities. The strategy worked. Rick Pitino and Company got more of a half-court game and pulled out a 73-70w in over arch-rival UK in the Yum Center.
Mississippi didn’t follow the Pitino blueprint. The Rebels tried to run-and-gun with the Cats in the first half and got burned. Badly. Kentucky shot 61.5 percent and led Ole Miss 60-39 at the end of the first half – the most first half points in the Calipari Era and the most first-half points any Kentucky team had scored since 2004.
After a sub-par effort at Louisville, Malik Monk bounced back with 24 points in the first half. Isaiah Briscoe ended up with a triple-double on the night, scoring 19 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing 11 assists. (UK had 16 assists in the first half alone.) And Bam Adebayo, who didn’t get the ball enough against the Cards, scored 25 points as Kentucky easily won its conference opener.
2. Lack of focus in the second half
This is a young Kentucky team – with Calipari, they’ve all been young Kentucky teams – and that showed in the second half as the Cats lost their focus and things got sloppy.
On the ESPN2 broadcast you could hear Calipari yelling throughout most of the final 20 minutes and there was a reason. Though never seriously threatened, the Cats were anything but sharp. They shot 37.1 percent the second half and ended up getting outrebounded 45-42 on the night. Ole Miss’ Sebastian Saiz scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
In others, Cal has plenty of material for Camp Cal, which starts up again once the team returns to Lexington in preparation for Tuesday night’s home conference opener against Texas A&M.
3. Interesting rotations
In the season’s first conference game, Calipari used some interesting player rotations.
Wenyen Gabriel started but played just 14 minutes compared to 24 for Derek Willis. Tai Wynyard, who has seen very little action all year, was the first big man off the bench, possibly to send a message to Isaac Humphries, who ended up playing just four minutes. Even though the game was a blowout, Sacha Killeya-Jones only made it in the game at the very end.
De’Aaron Fox had seven assists in 23 minutes but was bothered by foul trouble and is still struggling with his shot. The freshman was three-of-10 from the floor. He missed both of his three-point attempts and was just one-of-three from the foul line.
Kentucky men’s basketball 2016-17
Stephen F Austin