Sidelines with John Clay

Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s exhibition opener

Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s 103-61 exhibition win over Thomas More on Friday night in Rupp Arena:

1. PJ Washington is an underrated piece of Kentucky’s equation

Yes, John Calipari harped on the freshman’s zero assists to four turnovers. The Kentucky coach wants the 6-foot-7 freshman forward to be more of a playmaker, to dish the ball and not turn it over. Still, it was hard not to be impressed with the Dallas native’s smooth performance Friday.

Washington scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, seven on the defensive end. Washington has a comfort to his game whether he’s shooting the ball or hitting the glass. There’s not much wasted motion or overused effort. He knows how to play and should continue to improve.

“I’m looking at PJ as a playmaking big man,” Calipari said. “You can’t be zero assists and four turnovers. Now I will tell you we had 17 turnovers. How many were offensive fouls? Five. So we really had 12 turnovers where we threw balls away. The rest of them were running somebody over.”

2. How about those free throws

Especially early in the season, the foul line has been a work in progress for Calipari’s club. Friday night, however, the Cats made 22 of their 30 free throws for 73.3 percent. Take out walk-on Jonny David, who was 2-for-4, and the numbers are 20-of-26 for 76.9 percent. Take out Sacha Killeya-Jones going 0-for-3 and the Cats were 20-of-23 for 86.9 percent.

“Sacha got eight rebounds,” said Calipari. “If he rebounds like that, I can put him in the game.”

Kevin Knox was a perfect 10-of-10 from the foul line which was a very good sign. Knox was Kentucky’s leading scorer with 27 points and chances are he’s going to get to the foul line a lot. Knox was 8-of-12 from the floor.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was 4-of-4 from the foul line. Nick Richards was 2-of-2. Point guard Quade Green did not make it to the foul line and probably needs to penetrate more. But the guess is he can make his free throws, as well. Green was 3-of-4 from three, which brings us to our third takeaway.

3. Green proved he can shoot from the perimeter, but his teammates have work to do

Geen, the 6-foot, 180-pounder from Philadelphia said that he shoots well all the time, not just in practice. And he proved it, going 2-of-3 from beyond the arc in the first half before making his only three-point attempt in the second.

Outside of Green, however, Kentucky was just 2-of-12 from three. Knox missed three of his four three-point attempts. Hamidou Diallo missed all three of his three-point attempts. Gabriel was 0-for-2 from downtown.

Outside shooting was one of the bigger preseason questions about this team and it doesn’t help that freshman Jemarl Baker continues to be sidelined by knee trouble. Calipari hasn’t been definitive about when we will get to see Baker, who missed last week’s Blue-White Game, as well.

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