Gilgeous-Alexander overcomes pressure to lift Cats to victory


Kentucky freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dunks the ball during the game against Davidson College in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. Kentucky defeated Davidson 78-73. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Oftentimes when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander doesn’t play his best, UK is vulnerable to lose the game, and that was certainly the case for the Cats against Davidson on Thursday.

Davidson had just tied the game with 9:05 remaining, and by that point, Gilgeous-Alexander only had six points. He went on to score 11 more in the final nine minutes to help the Cats pull away from Davidson.

“I’ve always been taught that when my shot is not falling offensively, do it defensively, and I got a couple of steals, got out in transition and got some easy dunks,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.

Gilgeous-Alexander recorded five steals in the game to set a new career high in the category. Four of his steals came in the second half, three of which resulted in fastbreak layups or dunks on the other end.

Another area when Gilgeous-Alexander helped the Cats was at the free throw line, where he went 9-10, all in the second half.

However, that stat line didn’t come easy for Gilgeous-Alexander, who he said faced the hardest defense he’s faced all year.

“That was physically, the hardest team,” Gilgeous-Alexander. “They tire you out so much on defense, they use all 25 seconds every possession. It was a good test for us.”

Davidson’s efforts on defense took an early toll on Gilgeous-Alexander, as he got off to a 1-8 start from the floor, and making no impact on the game offensively. That was when Davidson started creeping up on UK’s lead and was looking to complete the upset.

However, Gilgeous-Alexander never felt the pressure of losing, and instead, felt pressure to step up for his team. 

“The game was taking its turn for them and I knew I had to step up in order for the team to get a win,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I just tried to put pressure on the defense, make plays for other and tried to get to the line a little bit.” 

When Gilgeous-Alexander did start attacking the basket, and finding open teammates in the process, the chances for UK winning rose, but Gilgeous-Alexander’s confidence in the team never wavered, even when Davidson had the momentum.

“I was pretty confident in this team’s ability the whole game, I never thought we were going to lose the game,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I think we could beat any team in the country regardless we make any shots.” 

As Gilgeous-Alexander has proved many times this season, he’s a valuable piece for the Cats in the tourney run. Now that he’s gotten his first March Madness game out the way, expect him to play the way he did in the final nine minutes against Davidson.