Gabriel has record setting performance from behind the three-point line


Kentucky sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel celebrates after making a three during the game against Alabama in the SEC tournament semifinals on Saturday, March 10, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. Kentucky defeated Alabama 86-63. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

It was at the 16:37 mark in the second half when Wenyen Gabriel realized he was going to have a good game.

By that point, Gabriel just hit his third three of the game, but he would finish with seven made threes on seven attempts. That was a new career-high and it helped him finish with 23 points, which tied his career-high.

“I think I was in the zone after probably my third three,” Gabriel said after his performance. “… I just let it fly. Teammates trusted in me, and shots fell today.”

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By going 7-7 from behind the arc, Gabriel became the fifth player in the history of the SEC Tournament to finish perfect from three-point land, the first since 2006. Gabriel also set the school record for the most made threes without a miss in any game.

Gabriel has been the best shooter for the Cats so far in the SEC Tournament, shooting 80 percent from the floor and 89 percent from three. Gabriel came into the SEC Tournament only making seven threes in the previous eight games, the two-game stretch in the tournament has boosted his confidence.

“That was great to have one of these today for my confidence going forward,” Gabriel said. “We’ve got some big games coming up ahead, trying to bring home some hardware tomorrow.”

The other players on the team also took away confidence seeing the ball go through the net off of Gabriel’s shots.

“That just motivates other people to shoot the ball and make them too,” Kevin Knox said. “It was really fun to play with Wenyen because if he can knock down shots, I can knock down shots.”

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Gabriel’s and others’ threes gave Kentucky a total of 12 made threes for the game, which is the most they have made all season. This was also only the third time all season that the Cats have knocked down double-digit threes, and two of those victories were by a margin of over 20 points.

Obviously hitting double-digit three pointers will help lead a team to victory, but head coach John Calipari doesn’t believe his need needs to make many three pointers to win the game.

“You have teams that must take 10 or 11 or 12 or they’re going to lose,” Calipari said. “We’re kind of the other way, and I kind of like it being that way.”

It’s unlikely that the Cats will make double-digit threes in many more games this season, or that Gabriel will go 7-7 from beyond the arch, but what Gabriel brings to the table could be a deciding factor on if UK does some damage in the postseason.

“It’s also really hard to cover, having guys that can rebound, block shots do what a traditional big can do and also make shots,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s where the game is steering to right now, bigger guys making threes and I think Wenyen is one of those special guys that can do so.”