Cats quiet Peters, seniors shine in win over Valpo

Senior guard Mychal Mulder dunks the ball during the game against Valpo at Rupp Arena on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 87-63. Photo by Lydia Emeric | Staff 

Chris Angolia

If the fans had any questions about how No. 6 UK would respond following Saturday’s loss to now No. 2 UCLA, the Cats answered them with an 87-63 rout of a seven-win Valparaiso team Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.

Heading into the game, much was made out of Valpo big man Alec Peters who has drawn a lot of attention from NBA scouts and averaged 25.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game prior to Wednesday’s game. However, the Cats were able to keep Peters at-bay especially in the early stages of the game holding him to a meager seven points on 3-for-10 shooting in the first half. And while Peters struggled, UK thrived despite a slow start of their own.

At the under 16 time out in the first half, UK held a 6-4 lead and had seven early turnovers, but whatever coach John Calipari said to his team during the break paid dividends. The Cats used a 21-0 run – their largest of the season –  to break things wide open and provide a cushion early on.

After allowing 96 points on Saturday, UK held Valpo to just 27 percent shooting in the first half, which played a big part in giving the Cats a 21-point lead heading into the locker room. And while the game was not extremely exciting, it was one that UK should be happy with simply because of the way things played out on Saturday.

despite Peters’ and Valparaiso’s best efforts in keeping the game close, UK proved rather early that they were the better team. Freshmen Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk made sure of that by combining for 17 points in the first half and establishing a presence on the defensive end.

For Adebayo, his seven points in the first half paved the way for him to have yet another solid night as he continues to develop into the player that many envisioned him to be. Finishing with 16 points on 5-9 shooting as well as grabbing seven rebounds, Adebayo has scored in double figures in each of the last six games and continues to improve on both ends of the floor.

With the obvious improvement of Adebayo, Wednesday’s game also showed more of the Cats’ rotation that Calipari was not pleased with following the loss to UCLA.

The rotation struggles were not simply due to a lack of production, but more a result of the lack of one which Calipari attributed to himself. Seniors Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis and especially Mychal Mulder were much more involved on Wednesday and it provided a dimension that had gotten away from the Cats on Saturday.

Now to go alongside the continuously improving Adebayo, and the stud backcourt that UK has, the key additions to the rotation that were showcased in the Cats’ first seven wins may be back and will have to be in the coming weeks with games against North Carolina and Louisville looming.

But one thing is for sure, a 24-point victory over a team that will most likely win 25 games with your star backcourt taking a back seat, is something that is pleasing to see. Especially when said win follows a rare home loss.