Tyler Herro finally had the type of game Kentucky fans have been clamoring for since the Bahamas this summer. Herro scored 24 points on 10/13 shooting, including four three-pointers as Kentucky beats Louisville 71-58 at the KFC Yum! Center.
In Kentucky’s first true road game against a surprising Louisville team, the Cats showed great poise and controlled the tempo of the game. The first half saw a close-knit, back and forth game, until Kentucky’s 11-0 run gave the Cats a 31-17 lead. Though the young Cardinals would make brief bursts to try to get in the game, Kentucky’s size and talent proved to be too much.
PJ Washington had a tremendous impact on the game despite only scoring five points. Washington had the job of guarding Louisville’s best player, Jordan Nwora. Nwora finished with 17 points but every shot attempt was a struggle from Washington’s physical defense. Washington finished with five points, eight rebounds, and four blocks.
Keldon Johnson, coming off of back to back 20+ point games against Seton Hall and North Carolina, cooled off a bit. Johnson still scored 15 points on 5/13 shooting, but only made 1/5 three-point attempts after hitting 10/14 in his previous two.
Kentucky’s Offense Is Clicking
John Calipari’s bread and butter on offense is built upon the dribble drive and playing above the rim. Despite looking like a lost team with severe chemistry issues and defensive deficiencies early this season, Kentucky is growing right before our eyes.
Against the hapless Cardinal defense, Kentucky controlled the tempo of the game. The Cats moved the ball seamlessly, aside from a brief struggle with a surprise 1-3-1 zone from the Cardinals. Since Quade Green announced his transfer to Washington, Ashton Hagans has changed the culture of this team.
Hagans brings a tenacious motor on both ends of the floor along with a good ability to penetrate and excellent vision. Last game against North Carolina, Hagans tied the Kentucky single-game record for steals with eight. Hagans also took the Tar Heels star point guard Coby White out of the game. Hagans followed up that performance with three steals to go along with 11 points and three assists.
A Defensive Terror?
These young Wildcats struggled mightily to defend any type of three-point shooting and dribble penetration early this season. Since the stunning loss in overtime to Seton Hall, this Kentucky team has been a defensive terror. The Cardinals never seemed to be able to get into a rhythm and every one of their shots seemed heavily contested. Credit Ashton Hagans’ effort and motor for this Cats turnaround.
Kentucky has a week off to prepare for conference play as they travel to Tuscaloosa, AL to face the 8-3 Alabama Crimson Tide next Saturday, January 5.