The Kentucky Wildcats outscored the Howard Bison in Monday night’s season opener by a score of 95-63.
The Cats came out with a bit of a jitters at first, but once they settled in, nothing slowed them down. After a slow start shooting from the ground, Kentucky turned it on for the final 10 minutes of the first half to build a lead that became insurmountable. At the break, Great Britain led 49-26.
After halftime, Kentucky went back and forth at times, but they were able to extend the lead and finish the Bison for their first win of the season.
Next, the Cats will face the Duquesne Dukes on Friday night in Lexington.
First starting lineup of the year, plus injury updates
Kentucky rolled with the same starting five as in their last exhibition game – Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware. While Fredrick, Toppin and maybe even Wallace will be the mainstays of the starting rotation this season, the Cats were obviously missing several pieces.
Oscar Tshiebwe is struggling with a knee injury that required minor surgery. Although he’s seemingly ready to leave, he’s still jumping a few hoops to get full clearance for his highly anticipated comeback. The reigning National Player of the Year is due Friday, but Tuesday at the latest.
Daimion Collins is still mourning the unexpected loss of his father, but the sophomore pogo stick is expected to be back with the team tomorrow and is expected to play Friday. Finally, the severity of Sahvir Wheeler’s injury is still relatively unknown and John Calipari’s weekly recovery time isn’t helping much.
The second best shot blocker of the Calipari era?
Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso was a 5-star rookie in the Class of 2023 before being upgraded in 2022. The 6-11 rookie signed on Aug. 1 and joined the team after the trip to the Bahamas.
Despite the late start, Onyenso didn’t miss a beat. While he was an afterthought for many a few months ago, especially with the return of Tshiebwe, Onyenso opened his eyes early.
Onyenso played limited minutes in Kentucky’s exhibition games, but he still racked up nine blocks. In this one, he continued to show off his shot-blocking prowess. The offensive game isn’t quite as polished as the defensive side, but it’s proving to be the elite rim protector that thrives in Cal’s system.
Complete the statistics sheet
I mentioned that the Kentucky All-SEC point guard missed the game due to injury, but what I didn’t mention was that Wallace fell into his shoes perfectly. The 5-star freshman looked incredibly level-headed on his first college action on his birthday, no less.
Many expected Wallace to be a defensive terror, and he is, but his ability to run the point will be invaluable this season. In fact, I predict most will be clamoring for Wallace to take Wheeler’s starting spot, if they haven’t already.
It was the kind of feel-good performance you love to see in a regular season opener.
Reeves is a microwave scorer
After winning MVP on the Big Blue trip to the Bahamas and leading the team in the Cats’ second exhibition game, Antonio Reeves was once again on fire. Illinois State’s transfer hasn’t started, but he appears to be the top scorer off the bench for this team.
Reeves has a ton of point management experience, and he can clearly score in bunches. The best part is that he’s not shy at all. He lets him tear himself away everywhere. I was convinced before the start of the season that he would drive Cal crazy because of how often he takes contested back jumps, but god, good luck telling that kid not to shoot him when he does. wanna.
The Big Blue Nation looked forward to Fredrick’s debut last season before he was injured in the layup lines before Kentucky’s opener. Cats fans also wanted to see more of Toppin, and they wanted him to be more aggressive when he came in.
Fredrick is healthy and Toppin has clearly taken a big step forward. In fact, they arguably looked like Kentucky’s best players. Fredrick does not miss. He passes the ball well. He hits the glass. It can perform pick-and-roll. And his basketball IQ is through the roof.
Meanwhile, Toppin has expanded his lineup and his athleticism is second to none. He hasn’t been shy about shooting the ball either, and he no longer shares minutes with Keion Brooks, which has given him an extra boost of confidence.
They are glue guys, and their experience is invaluable.
Great way to start the season. Go cats!