No 3-pointers, no big problem: Gilgeous-Alexander, Knox still power Kentucky to 78-73 NCAA win

Kevin Knox (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky didn’t make a 3-point shot for the first time in 30 years — a stretch of 1,047 games — and got outscored 33-0 from 3-point range.

Kentucky coach John Calipari also thought his team play “undisciplined” at times in the second half and didn’t match the energy that Davidson had.

However, Kentucky still found a way to win 78-73 Thursday night in Boise in the NCAA Tournament South Region first round and advance to Saturday’s second round matchup against the Arizona-Buffalo winner.

“I thought the second half they just played harder than us. We didn’t get to any 50-50 balls,” Calipari said. “These guys thought Davidson was going away (after UK got a 13-point lead in the first half). This is life and death. Heck of a lesson for a young team against a good team.

“I thought Kevin (Knox) made some good baskets when we needed them and then Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) just took over the game.”

Knox finished with 25 points and six rebounds. Gilgeous-Alexander had 19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Knox was 8-for-16 from the field and 9-for-11 at the foul line while Gilgeous-Alexander was 5-for-13 from the field and 9-for-10 at the foul line.

The two combined to score 26 of Kentucky’s final 28 points in the final nine minutes. They were both money at the foul line. Gilgeous-Alexander also had three rebounds and forced two Davidson turnovers in the final 2 1/2 minutes.

“I don’t think I played too well today,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I have been just trying to do what coach asks. Today I didn’t do too well and got a little selfish in the second half.”

Calipari warned all week that Davidson would be a “hard” game for his team, especially with the way it could make 3-pointers.

“We became undisciplined (the second half). There was a stretch where guys did what they wanted to do. I don’t know if they were tired or what. I even thought we were tired to start the game and then we played with more energy and got going,” Calipari said. “But they play a style that is hard.”

Kentucky dominated the first half. It outscored Davidson 26-10 in the paint in the first half but got just 10 points in the paint the second half. Davidson entered the tournament allowing only 26.2 points per game in the paint.

Davidson also missed its last eight 3-point shots in the first half and finished the half 3-for-15 from long range — not what a team ranked 10th nationally in made 3’s and 28th in 3-point field goal percentage expected or needed. Davidson missed 17 of its final 20 shots in the half. It opened the second half making its first five shots and was 8-for-18 from 3-point range.

Jon Axel Gudmundsson had 21 points the second and made his first five 3-point goals to put Davidson back into the game.

“The second half we didn’t guard. We just kind of let it go,” Calipari said. “The first half proved that this team could guard an execution team. We were trying to go inside and drive the ball. We wanted to get to the foul line.

“You have to defend and rebound in this thing. We can’t go 0-fer from the 3-point line. You don’t have to make them all but you can’t miss them all. This is a good shooting team. We only took six. If we took six more, we would have been 6-for-12.”

That’s the theory Calipari has to sell his team going int the second round.

Kentucky had just 11 field goals in the second half but went 22-for-26 at the foul line thanks to Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop said limiting Kentucky’s 3-point shooting was a point of emphasis for his team but might also have resulted in putting UK at the foul line too many times

“The point of emphasis was on a couple of their shooters, but not to the point of not being connected. And I thought we had such a sense of urgency about covering their shooters that we didn’t stay connected on penetration,” McKillop said. “There were several penetrations that we should have had much more help, which we didn’t, because we were concerned about the shooters.

“When they send them to the line for 32 shots and they make 80 percent of them, you’re putting yourself in jeopardy right away. And you give them a couple of undefended baskets with turnovers, you’re talking about 35 points right there. And that 35 points in a 5-point game is very pivotal.”

Calipari and his players said they didn’t know Kentucky had not made a 3-point shot until after the game ended.

“I didn’t know that at all. We just shoot the shots that were open,” Knox said. “They didn’t fall tonight. It’s rare for us not to get a 3-point shot. But yeah, I didn’t know the whole game.”

Calipari was worried about more than 3-point shooting knowing a tougher game will be coming in two days.

“I told them in this tournament you enjoy wins, but you still need to learn that if we played the way we played in the second half, it’s been a heck of a year, but you’re not advancing, doesn’t matter who you play,” Calipari said.

“You’ve got to play 40 minutes and fight like heck and then go back to the hotel room and pass out. And then get a day in between. This is not a conference tournament where it’s game, game, game. You have a day in between to recover.”

9 comments

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  1. Tough road ahead… GO BIG BLUE

    O BIG BLUE !!

  2. This was a good win. Davidson got on track in the second half and the Cats earned this win. Buffalo is up 10 on Arizona with 11 minutes left. Arizona is obviously looking ahead to Saturday. Either way, it will be a battle on Saturday. Go Cats!

  3. Watched Buffalo and Arizona tonight. Buffalo looks much better, a lot more active than Davidson. They can really shoot it. Kind of remind me of Tenn inside with a lot of bulk. Ayton couldn’t do much of anything against them. After watching the game, I think I would have rather played Arizona.

    1. My feelings too Old Fan. It seems like we have trouble defending both the 3 and the post.

  4. Thinkin we were all wanting a “feel good” game and it didn’t happen. We won the game and lost the 2nd half…very disappointing with that half…..looked like UK mid-season. We didn’t have real good interior defense again and struggled a little with offensive rebounding. Everyone said Gabes had to have a good game for us to continue, and he scored a total dud. How does a sophomore, at season end, have so much production and confidence one game and then totally disappear. He played 25 mins and scored 1 point…..very sad performance. We didn’t get great guard play and hard to believe we could win without that. Great game by Knox and good FT shooting by Shai. SKJ was good and very efficient. PJ played his usual game….only involved for 1 half and a dumb fouling machine. Difficult to believe he hasn’t improved in this area all year. Can we beat the mighty Buffalo? If we defend the 3 like we did tonight probably not. Also worried about their physicality and bulk.

  5. A win is a win in my book, and yes we played two different halves of basketball, but I will chalk that up to freshmen playing their first NCAA tournament. It seemed like the nervousness got to them a bit. Let’s not be so critical of every play and enjoy the win because they could have lost, but they didn’t!

  6. Notice the game time is 4:15 ct tomorrow and I guess the media isn’t giving our cats a chance to win this game either. Win a game without hitting a 3-pointer is pretty good accomplishment. but we gonna need it to hit the 3’s in order to advance further down the road. playing Buffalo won”t be a easy task.

  7. It’s no wonder we don’t get the respect from the national pundits that traditional UK teams have done. There is no reason to fear UK last couple of years. Cal has misjudged some folks along the recruiting process and he has shown that he continues to be out coached in many games last couple of years. Why is it that a lot of smaller, non traditional schools can recruit some big guys with bulk and some skills as well, and the best we can do is Nick Richards. You have got to be kidding me. We need more guys with “chips on their shoulders”. We have a couple of guys that talk it but not enough buy-in.
    If you take a close look at our season closing performances, you will see where we did lose a lot of 2nd halves of games. We have not shown an ability to put teams away when we have the chance and had a chance to do that in 1st half last night and didn’t. We went thru most of the season performing like a team that probably shouldn’t have been in the Top 20. A lot of folks seemed ok with the streak being broken last night, but I was not in that camp. When you can make 12 3’s in 1 game and 0 in next game out, after 30 yrs. of success, that is disgraceful. Yes, Wenyan did get too caught in his success, but he actually has had more bad 3 pt. games this year than good. If we play tomorrow night like we played last night there is a good chance we will be going down. We have played many games this year where only 2-3 guys really stepped up and were good and lucky enough to pull it out. We need a full team buy-in for a full game and not sure this team has got that fortitude. We have got to decrease our dumb fouling, lazy passes, block out for offensive rebounds, and defend the interior better. Sorry guys for ranting and raving on this post, but I just expect these guys, for all their reported talent, to be playing at a higher level than they are. It would also be nice, if for just one game, Cal would stop the “well they are still freshmen”

  8. I think if we can beat Buffalo, we have a good shot at going to the final 4. Having said that, Green has to do a better job either defending the 3 or denying the ball. That guy from Davidson hit three 3-pointers right over Green and Green never really raised his arms or even jumped at the guy. Once he even got lost on a screen and the guy drilled it. Can’t do that against Buffalo. Wenyen’s bad game was because of his foul trouble so early, and I think if Washington had not gotten into foul trouble, it might have been a double-digit win. Davidson did a very good job spreading the floor and driving 1-on-1 and either going to the basket or kicking it back. Hard to help out on D when you are spread 40 feet apart.

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