UK shows signs of ‘reboot’ in rout of Tennessee

Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe yells out a play during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 83-58.

Chris Angolia

When No. 13 UK men’s basketball lost to Florida on Feb. 4, head coach John Calipari said that he knew his team had an issue after it lost to the Tennessee Volunteers in late January that began a stretch of struggles that culminated that Saturday night in Gainesville. On Tuesday however, Calipari’s team got another shot at the Vols and made the most of it with an 83-58 rout of the Vols, despite a rocky start.

The Cats’ struggles from deep that plagued them in their loss in Knoxville looked as if they were going to continue on Tuesday night when the team started the game shooting just 3-11. Rather than continue with its shooting woes and allow the Vols to hang around, UK caught fire and hit seven of its next 11 shots that included six threes to put the Cats up 16 midway through the first half.

The shooting exhibition for the Cats was engineered by a pair of familiar faces, Derek Willis and Malik Monk. In that span, Willis and Monk each knocked down a pair of threes.

It was not just the 18-3 run that the Cats went on that boosted the team’s stats in the first half either. Aside from the struggles to start the game, UK managed to finish the first half shooting 55.6 percent from deep and 45.7 percent from the field that led to the Cats taking a 15-point lead into the locker room.

In the second half, that 15-point lead shrunk to 13 briefly, but it was obvious that UK was done playing around. The Cats’ lead was back to 15, then 19, and by the under eight TV timeout, UK found itself up 25 and in total control of the game.

For a team that has not necessarily looked like itself since it last played the Vols, UK showed signs of coach John Calipari’s proclaimed ‘reboot’. One thing that Calipari mentioned when his team struggled was turnovers, and the lack of assists that his players were dishing out, but that was not the case on Tuesday.

A 17-assist, seven-turnover performances from the Cats was a promising sign for the Big Blue Nation who have been anxious to see their team perform at the level they are capable of.

The one thing that goes hand-in-hand with a good ball control performance is good guard play, and each of UK’s three guards, Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Isaiah Briscoe turned out good performance’s on Tuesday.

Monk led the Cats in scoring with 20 points to go along with a career-high eight rebounds, Fox turned in a 16 point, three rebound, six assist performance, and Briscoe added 12 points, four rebounds and six assists. Perhaps the most important stat between this trio, aside from Monk’s rebounds is that there were only three total turnovers between them.

It was obvious Tuesday night that when UK takes care of the ball and plays defense (UK held the Vols to just 35% shooting), that it looks more like the team everyone saw to start the year. If that continues, the Cats might just completely ‘reboot’ by the time the Tournament rolls around.