Sidelines with John Clay

Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s partial Bahamas blackout

Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson let out a yell during the first half as the Wildcats took on San Lorenzo de Almagro on Thursday night at Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson let out a yell during the first half as the Wildcats took on San Lorenzo de Almagro on Thursday night at Paradise Island, Bahamas. UK Athletics

Since we saw only a little over half the game on television because of technical difficulties, I was tempted to do just one-and-a-half takeaways, but instead here are a full three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s 91-68 win over San Lorenzo de Almagro on Thursday night in the beautiful Bahamas:

1. It’s going to be hard to tap the brakes on the Tyler Herro hype

After Wednesday night’s curtain-lifting win over the Bahamas Select team, UK coach John Calipari urged Big Blue Nation to slow down on the Tyler Herro/Rex Chapman comparisons. It’s way too early and King Rex was way too good for that, after all.

Well, after the new wizard from Wisconsin scored a game-high 22 points on Thursday night, following Calipari’s advice may be easier said than done for the UK faithful.

The 6-foot-6 Herro arrived on campus with the reputation of being a knock-down shooter, but through two games he’s shown he can do much more than that.

Herro was seven-of-10 from the floor, including four-of-five from three-point range. He was a perfect four-of-four from the foul line. He had two rebounds, two assists and an eye-catching plus-minus ratio of plus-23. Not bad for your second college (exhibition) game. Let the hype continue.

[Kentucky-San Lorenzo box score]

2. What was that about lacking perimeter shooters? Never mind.

Wednesday night brought flashbacks to last season’s struggles from the behind the arc. Oh no, not again. The Cats took 20 three-point shots in their exhibition opener. They hit just two. That’s it. Two. Yikes.

Thursday night, completely different story. Kentucky ended up seven-of-12 from three-point range for 58 percent. As previously mentioned, Herro buried four of his five three-point attempts. Keldon Johnson was two-of-three from three. Quade Green nailed his only three-point attempt, which happened to be the first basket of the game.

What happened from Wednesday to Thursday? Surely there were butterflies on Wednesday. This was the first game for many young Cats playing with new teammates in a new system for a new coaching staff. Thursday, UK looked much more comfortable on offense. The Cats shared the ball. They found a rhythm. Thus, they made shots, shooting 65 percent overall for the game.

3. Who will end up being Kentucky’s point guard? (Plus complaints.)

It’s way too early to tell. Way too early. There are plenty of candidates, however. Quade Green started. He’s the holdover, the veteran, so that made sense. But Immanuel Quickley, who also started, and Ashton Hagans all appeared to share time at the point.

And who knows what happened during those 10 minutes we didn’t get to see on the SEC Network after a power surge at the Atlantis temporarily knocked out the lights? And when the lights did first return, they were too dim for the modern-day television cameras.

It would be nice if SEC Network analysts Seth Greenberg and Dan Dakich gave us some analysis on the point-guard spot, but the two former coaches appear more interested in providing a running commentary on the NCAA rule changes announced Tuesday, or the golf in the Bahamas, or other subjects that have just a loose connection to the game being broadcast.

I know, even before the technical problems, broadcasting these games is tough. It’s hard to get information on the opponents. And few of the viewers really care about the opponents. And I actually like Greenberg and Dakich on games — Dakich more than Greenberg, to be honest — but something about these first two nights has placed my finger on the mute button. I haven’t pushed it yet, but . . .

One more complaint: Those Kentucky uniforms. The Cats wore black uniforms with blue numbers on Wednesday. They wore white uniforms with white numbers on Thursday. Both nights, it has been hard to identify the players by number, especially when there are so many new players.

OK, enough crabbing for this night. Friday is an off night. Hopefully, the hotel ballroom staging this event will have its electrical bugs solved. Calipari’s Cats will be back at it Saturday night at 7 p.m. SEC Network again has the telecast. And we will be back with more takeaways.

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