Top Takeaways from UK vs. Morehead State


Freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander goes in for a layup during the Kentucky Cares Classic charity game against Morehead State at Monday, October 30, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 92 to 67. Photo by Kaitlyn Gumm| Staff

Seeing one-half of the basketball game told the story of the battle. Morehead gave a deserving fight, but Kentucky’s length and athleticism pulled them away at the end. But between the lines, there were significant takeaways that could show promise for this young Wildcat team.

1.    Selfless Basketball

From breakaway dunks to grit in the press, this young Wildcat team is forming into a potential Cal-style team. They love to pass the ball, and in today’s game, it takes a team effort to get you over the hump. Like the Golden State Warriors, and let me remind you of the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats, individuals know it isn’t about the name on their back but the name on their chest.

2.    Shai Gilgeous—Alexander is the real deal

Freshman point guard Quade Green wasn’t carrying the ball up the floor in the second half, it was his counterpart Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. You will always have your Kevin Knox and PJ Washington’s, but Alexander’s explosiveness to the ball on defense and his first step after a blow by sets him apart from Green and could potentially give him the starting position. His motor reminds you of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or an Alex Poythress, but as a guard.

Even though his offensive play-making ability is spectacular, his on-ball defense is better than fans could have imagined. Even though Green can make the flashy passes, Alexander looks to be a possessed man against the opponent’s guards; he knows when to reach and when not to.

3.    Kevin Knox’s role can make or break UK in some games

Like many, I was not shocked seeing Knox dunking on people. But the fact that his speed gets him to the rim is what makes him the X-factor of the team. His shot needs some work, but ESPN did not get him wrong as being one of the best players in the country.

4.    Weakness: Pick and Roll Defense

Not only can this be a significant issue out of conference, but in conference play as well. In the SEC, especially, top to bottom, every team has a great shooting guard that can pass and shoot off the dribble. Teams like Georgia use this offensive style to give them guaranteed points with Yante Maten off the dribble. What may be the concern is the big man’s role to follow the man and the ball. After the pick has been set, I saw multiple times where Sacha Killeya-Jones or Nick Richards fell for it, and if it wasn’t for Morehead State being out there, that’s two guaranteed points and a risky bad foul scenario.

Lastly, the help defenses off a pick-and-roll could hurt Kentucky after seeing the Eagles capitalize big time with wide open shots. Maybe it was communication last night, but that was the most embarrassing thing about the defense. This also led to many back-door opportunities. The baseline was open quite often and could be a significant flaw in this impressive lengthy defense.

5.    Don’t worry; it’s early

Not only is today the last day of October, that means November is here, and basketball is ramping up, as we are just 15 days away from Kansas in Chicago. Seeing flashy dunks and pressure on out of bounds plays and signs of defense motivating offense once again, is a staple of Cal’s great teams. Having the length and the ability to block shots is another great look for the Cats to intimidate opponents everywhere.

Before you go off to wait for football on Saturday, the Cats have another chance to improve as the final exhibition game is upon us against Centre College at Rupp. Expect a more rounded and energetic offense on Friday, as we are counting down the days until the regular season starts.