The #2 ranked Kentucky Wildcats took on the Canisius Golden Griffins in their second regular season matchup. UK, coming off of an 87-64 win against Stephen F. Austin, was looking to improve on some mistakes that were apparent in their opener. Rupp Arena had the feel of a conference game after Canisius made it an interesting first half. With time running out in the first half, De’Aaron Fox took control of the ball and eventually found Monk on an alley-oop that caused the whole state of Kentucky to implode with only seconds remaining in the half. Rupp was filled with obvious unrest as UK committed multiple blunders, which led to Canisius baskets. But just like Cal always says with his young teams, ‘it’s a process’.
The man responsible for controlling the pace of game when it seemed to get out of hand in the first half, was Isaiah Briscoe. A number of times Isaiah showed his veteran leadership and took the ball up the court, slowed the pace, and ran a half-court set after Canisius went on a quick run. The fans at Rupp showed their appreciation as they all stood and cheered for Briscoe when he began to call a play. Without Briscoe’s 21 points and his leadership, the scoreboard could easily look a little closer.
Why the winning team won
The University of Kentucky is the epitome of college basketball and 10x the program Canisius is. The skill and talent on Kentucky’s side of the ball simply outmatched the opponent. Kentucky had the advantage in all shooting categories, including their field goal % (50.8%). The biggest stat category that separated the two teams, was the turnovers. Canisius’ 19 to Kentucky’s 10 was the difference in this matchup.
The athleticism and length that Kentucky possess was just too much for Canisius. The first half was a back and forth dog fight, but the Golden Griffins were consumed by UK’s tangibles and it ended up being a one sided second half in favor of the Wildcats.
Star of the Game
Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe is my pick for the Star of the Game. Briscoe has officially embraced the role of leader and showed it when he settled his team down as I previously mentioned. Isaiah’s 21 points, 2 assists, and 5 rebounds helped lift the Wildcats to the victory.
Dud of the Game
Unfortunately, Derek Willis will take the honors for this game. As a starter, Willis only notched 2 points, and 2 rebounds. There were multiple instances where Cal was visibly upset with Derek on the defensive end and with his positioning on the offensive end. Everyone has their bad days, and hopefully this is one of the only from Mr. Willis.
Stat of the Night
Kentucky’s backcourt combined for 58 points in Sunday’s matchup. Coming into the season, the two lethal freshmen (Monk and Fox) were the main story for the Cats. The guards for the Wildcats were raved about in the preseason, and they lived up to the hype in this game by accounting for more than half of their teams’ points. The production from the three headed monster of Briscoe, Fox, and Monk was the biggest reason for the Wildcat’s second win of the season.
Overall, the Cats have a long way to go. They are noticeably young at times, and need Coach Cal’s constant guidance to improve. The chemistry is there but there are flashes of confusion when they are stuck in a half-court set. The next game for the Wildcats will be against 13th ranked Michigan St. in the Champions Classic on November 15. After a nail-biting loss on opening night against Arizona, Tom Izzo’s group will be hungry for revenge and their first win.