Shooters shoot: Three-point buckets proves big in Cats’ win over UNC


Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) high fives Kentucky Wildcats guard Kellan Grady (31) during the UK vs. Southern basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 76-64. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Jaron Centers

As head coach John Calipari said, “We have three-point shooters—I want three-point makers.” 

Coming off a game where the Cats shot an abysmal 2-19 from the three, fans were beginning to have serious concerns about the team’s ability to shoot beyond the arc. 

In Saturday’s CBS Sports Classic matchup against the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Cats left no doubt that they have some “makers.” UK finished the 98-69 victory shooting 53.3 percent from the three-point arc, cashing in eight makes on 15 attempts. 

Kellan Grady, arguably the team’s best three-point “maker” had five of those himself, finishing with 18 points total on the night. Davion Mintz and TyTy Washington Jr. also each saw a three-pointer enter the net, along with Bryce Hopkins, hitting only his fourth triple of the season. 

While the Cats were efficient from beyond the arc, UK also had a great shooting night inside as well, shooting 54.2 percent from the field. In total, 55 percent of the Cats’ points came from inside the paint, as Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe once again dominated in scoring and on the glass, finishing with 16 points (7-12) and 12 reboundson 22 minutes on the floor. The efficiency was widespread, as six Wildcats finished with at least 50 percent or better from the field in shooting. 

“If you’re not making threes, what else are you going to do to make baskets?” Calipari asked. “It would be a lot easier if you make threes. Today we were, 8-15, but we were at the rim, which is what we were trying to do.”

Sahvir Wheeler had himself a night from inside as well, finishing with 26 points (12-15) and eight assists, coming off a rough game against Notre Dame, where he only scored three points in 29 minutes played. Wheeler’s efforts earned him a 36 efficiency rating on the night, as he came into tonight’s game averaging only an 11.8 rating this season. 

The Cats have certainly made a case for optimism going forward, as far as shooting goes. 

“This is how we play, so we’re going to play the way we play,” Calipari said. “If it’s not good enough, we’ll learn.” Tonight it was, to say the least.