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Cats showcase lot of offense in Blue-White Game

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — There was a lot to like and very little not to like from Kentucky’s Blue-White Game here Friday night.

Coach John Calipari has had a swagger about his freshman-dominated team for months and it was easy to see why after watching this intrasquad battle.

Freshman point guard De’Aaron might be even faster than anticipated and had 31 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Freshman guard Malik Monk looked like he was ready for the NBA dunk contest and had 26 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Veteran Isaiah Briscoe — and on this team a sophomore is a veteran — has the green light from Calipari to shoot this year and he did. He took 30 shots and made 14. He was 2-for-6 from 3-point range — an improvement over last year. And get this — at the foul line he was a more than respectable 9-for-12 to finish with 39 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.

Big man Bam Adebayo got a cut under his eye early in the game and missed most of the first half but still had 20 points and 12 rebounds. However, he had seven turnovers.

Freshman Sacha Killeya-Jones had 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting but had NINE fouls in the first half.

“You had both Sacha and Bam foul a bunch. Their hands were down and you can’t play that way,” Calipari said.

Other encouraging signs: Mychal Mulder was 4-for-5 from 3-point range, Dominique Hawkins had 22 points and no turnovers, Derek Willis had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

“Dom defends, is tough and comes up with balls,” Calipari said. “Mychal is more confident this year.”

What will be interesting going forward is how UK will develop defensively. Calipari has said he thought this could be one of his best defensive teams. It didn’t look that way tonight, but it was the Blue-White Game and defense seldom is the best part of this game.

One thing that did impress me was that Wenyen Gabriel showed the ability to guard someone like Willis or stay with a player like Briscoe. Not everyone can do that.

“We have guys that can really guard on the ball. Derek is better, Wenyen can guard and I love his energy,” Calipari said. “What we have to do is get Sacha, Bam and Isaac (Humphries) to play defense. But we will be alright.”

Kentucky was 11-for-30 from 3-point range, about the percentage Calipari expected and higher than many others anticipated.

“I am not concerned about that,” Calipari said.

2 comments

  1. Mike

    A little too early to tell, but I think this may be Cal’s best team yet for having the talent and togetherness to go all the way. This was a very impressive scrimmage, and we didn’t even get a peek at Humphries.

  2. TheProfessor

    or a peak at Wynyard. Cal last night said he planned to keep either Briscoe or Fox on the floor at all times, and about 20 minutes/game with both in, with Monk or Hawkins. That suggests 30 min/game for Briscoe and Fox, and 40 minutes per game divided between the other two guards. On the front line, there will be 100 minutes per game to divide between Willis, Bam, Humphries, and probably one or two more bigs giving him an 8 to 9 player rotation. I think that is how he will start the season, and by January, Call will winnow the rotation down to 7 players IMO.

    I agree with Mike, this is going to be a very, very, very good basketball team. While the emphasis last night was clearly on offense, I saw many outstanding defensive plays from several of these players. Cal will naturally gravitate his focus to defense as he learns about his newest group of baby bouncers. Last year was Cal’s weakest defensive team at UK, and probably the weakest of his last 10 to 12 seasons overall. I do not expect a repeat of that in 2016-17. I expect to see a top 10 defensive efficiency from this team when all the dust settles.

    Offensively, my strongest impression last night was Briscoe’s ability to score from the perimeter and from the line. No one can question his ability to get to the rim, but now opponents must defend him honestly, and cannot simply send him to the line to miss a pair. Fox is everything his press clippings had promised, and perhaps even more. Monk is a monster guard. Hawkins shows a senior maturity that used to be the standard ingredient for a championship run, as did Willis. Bam is a beast, with a great touch around the rim. I thought he can only improve from this start, especially with his sense about his position on the court, when at or even under the backboard.

    Best team ever by Cal? Perhaps it will be, but that is a very high bar. I believe it should be better than 2010, and could be better than 2015. To be better than 2012, they must finish the job like 2012 did and bring home #9.

    Cannot wait to see this team against a real opponent.

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