What went right in UK’s win over West Virginia


The Kentucky Wildcats bench celebrates during the game against Louisville Friday, December 29, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Louisville 90-61. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Good habits usually lead to good results, and that is especially true for the Kentucky basketball team.

Before the Cats picked up their biggest win of the season at West Virginia, John Calipari and players admitted that preparation for the game had gone well, and that was evident in Saturday’s game.

“Our shoot around was good, our two practices before this game were really good,” Kevin Knox said, who finished with a career-high 34 points. “Our practices and the way we prepared really played a big factor in how we won this game.” 

Recap: UK defeats WVU with big second half comeback

Knox was the biggest star in UK’s win, as his 34 points is tied for the sixth most points a freshman has scored in UK history. Knox scored 12 of his points during Kentucky’s 24-5 run that helped UK overcome an 18-point deficit. 

“I mixed the game up, went to the basket, got to the free throw line, hit some big shots,” Knox said. “I just kept playing aggressive, kept doing what they asked me to and it went well for me.”

Knox certainly helped pull UK out of the hole they were in, but Nick Richards also played a big deal in the win. Richards scored eight of his nine points in the second half, including four consecutive free throws that tied the game after West Virginia had re-taken the lead. 

The Cats overall went 23-29 from the free throw line, including all 18 of their second half attempts.

“You knock your free throws down, you are going to win pretty much any close game, and that’s what we did in the second half,” Knox said. 

Pile that all together, plus some big moments from most of the players, and the Cats did what not many have done, and that’s beat West Virginia on their home court.

“For us playing all freshmen, I mean freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman, sophomore, sophomore, that’s who we are,” Calipari said. “To be able to do that in this environment means we’re growing up.”

Does a win like this officially push Kentucky over the hump? It certainly can.

Before Saturday evening, UK’s biggest win was their 29-point victory over Louisville, but that win does not have the power as the win over West Virginia has.

“We are just going to keep with this momentum and keep going forward, never take steps backwards, we are going to keep going up from here,” Knox said. “It gives us all confidence. Next game we’ll come out with energy because we just won a big game.”

The Cats certainly have the right to come out of their next game excited with the way Saturday night did, but before they take the court against Vanderbilt on Jan. 30, they will need to do what helped them the most against West Virginia, and that’s good preparation. 

“I’m proud of them, they know how I feel,” Calipari said. “I told them it was a spirit about you in the second half, and that’s what we’re trying to get them to practice with so it becomes who they are.”