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Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s win over Southern University

·3 min read

Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s 76-64 win over the Southern Jaguars on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena:

1. I think the Cats have grown bored with the cupcakes

There is such a thing as having too much sugar in your diet. Tuesday was Kentucky’s eighth game of this young basketball season. Southern University was its fifth opponent that ranked 300th or worse in Ken Pomeroy’s advanced analytics. UK was a 30-point favorite. Little wonder there were times where the Cats appeared to be going through the motions.

“Thank goodness we won,” UK Coach John Calipari said afterward. “They outplayed us. They outcoached us.”

Not that the Cats were ever in serious trouble. This was not Monday night in Gainesville when Southern’s SWAC colleague Texas Southern upset Florida 69-54. One night later, Kentucky led Southern 38-34 at halftime. It led 49-36 with 15:58 left in the second half. But Southern did slice the advantage to 60-53 with 7:10 remaining and 66-58 with 3:53 left. “They never stopped playing,” Calipari said.

That’s when Oscar Tshiebwe took over. UK’s 6-foot-9 center scored six straight points to basically put the game away. He finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds for yet another double-double. He made nine of his 11 shots and went five of seven from the foul line. He was the difference.

He also had the line of the night, saying during his postgame interview, “I’ve got to learn to play against little dudes.”

2. I’d hate to see what this team would be without Oscar Tshiebwe

Truth be told, the big man from the Democratic Republic of Congo could use some help from his new friends.

Keion Brooks scored just two points in his 20 minutes. Kellan Grady went 3-for-4 from three-point range in the first half, missed all three of his attempts from behind the arc in the second half and failed to secure a rebound in 34 minutes. Jacob Toppin grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots, but he scored just two points.

Sahvir Wheeler dished six assists but turned it over five times. He scored eight points. He did get some help from running mate TyTy Washington, who scored 14 points and was credited with five assists.

“This was not one of Sahvir’s better games,” Calipari said, later adding one of his favorite lines, “They’re not machines.”

Actually, Cal summed up the night nicely, “I just think we had a couple of guys not play well.”

3. I’m ready for the next couple of weeks

Let’s see what the team can do. The dress rehearsals are over. Saturday brings a road trip to ACC member Notre Dame in South Bend. (Cal said it’‘s Notre Dame football’s big recruiting weekend.) The following Saturday, the Cats fly to Las Vegas for the CBS Sports Classic and a matchup with Big Ten stalwart Ohio State. That’s the same Ohio State that beat then No. 1-ranked Duke last week in Columbus.

After that, on Dec. 22, Louisville comes to Rupp Arena. The fans have voted no thanks on this early pre-conference schedule. Despite the return of Sean Woods, the former UK guard who is now Southern’s head coach, there were more empty seats Tuesday. For longtime Big Blue Nation members, it’s still a strange sight. The guess is they fans will be present and accounted for when the rivalry renews against the Cards.

Will Kentucky be ready? Where are the Cats in Calipari’s 2021-22 master plan? We’re about to find out. Thank goodness.

College basketball final: Kentucky 76, Southern 64

First Scouting Report: Is Kentucky ready for a road test at Notre Dame?

Five things you need to know from Kentucky’s 76-64 win over Southern

Box score from Kentucky basketball’s victory over Southern

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