Kentucky got back in the win column on Saturday for the first time since that 18-point drumming of Florida down in Gainesville earlier in the month, and the first time in Rupp Arena since Davion Mintz's late heroics in the narrow win over Vanderbilt on the first Tuesday night of the new year. Back home and looking to snap a three-game skid, the Cats showed up on both ends of the floor against LSU
and its league-leading offense as UK held Will Wade's team well below its strong-ass average, while setting a new season high on offense with 82 points scored in the 82-69 win.
10 takeaways from the victory...
1. Brandon Boston Jr. is finding his game.
Boston dropped 18 points for a second straight game and now we can see why his long term potential is held in such high regard. An erratic freshman with freshman habits through most of the season up until this point in the year, Boston is getting away from his me-vs-everyone method of attack and letting the game come to him, and the transformation is paying big dividends on the offensive end (36 points in two games).
There were still some relapses in today's win---at one point Calipari yanked him out of the game for reverting back to his scoop shot, a big no-no as the coaching staff gets him on the right path---but overall Boston is taking advantage of much better looks and giving the ball up when it's not there. It's not a coincidence that his offense is improving as he gets more involved in all aspects of the game; in this one he padded his 18 points with six rebounds, three assists, a block, a steal and no turnovers, an all-around good game for UK's rising star.
He deserves all of the smiles after a pretty rough start to his career. Big Blue Nation should be very happy for Boston today.
2. Keion Brooks is also turning it on.
As is the case with BJ Boston (but for different reasons), Kentucky has been waiting for Keion Brooks to be what everyone expected of him in the preseason, prior to the injury that kept him out of UK's first nine games of the year. Brooks made his long-awaited return in that big win at Florida and looked great doing it, ever since then though, he's been a little rusty in the losses to Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.
But against LSU, Brooks looked like one of the SEC's best forwards as he scored 15 points and came up one rebound shy of a double-double against one of the tougher and more athletic frontcourts in Trendon Watford and Darius Days. The 15 points set a new career high for Kentucky's only experienced player and the nine rebounds matched a career high on the glass. UK missed that type of production in the first nine games.
3. Give us more Isaiah Jackson.
With 15 rebounds against two of the SEC's best rebounders, Isaiah Jackson should see an increase in minutes moving forward. In my unprofessional opinion he should've already been playing more than 18 minutes per game, but now Jackson is demanding more clock with the way he rebounded against LSU, plus that nasty dunk that didn't count.
Is he still flawed offensively? Yes, very much so. However, he leads the nation in block percentage (better than both Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis), no one can match his flight above the rim, and he has those first-round NBA draft projections Calipari loves so much. Jackson needs to be on the floor. What he lacks offensively he'll make up elsewhere.
4. Devin Askew was pretty bad again.
First, a compliment: Askew improved his ball security from the last game with four assists and only one turnover, a big turnaround from the loss in Athens.
Now, some words about his shooting against LSU: it was horrible again. Askew went 0-for-5 from the field, all three-pointers, to bring his two-game total to 0-for-11. He also missed the front end of another 1-and-1 in his only trip to the free throw line. Poor guy's confidence is wrecked.
Still, he played 33 minutes, the third most on the team.
5. Trendon Watford and Cam Thomas shoot a lot.
Now we know why LSU has two of the SEC's top three scorers in Cam Thomas (22 ppg) and Trendon Watford (18.1)... they shot a combined 40 times against Kentucky.
Watford made half of his 20 attempts, going for 26 points in the losing effort, while Thomas was held below his pace with 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field. Even worse, Thomas missed seven of his eight tries from outside. Rough night for the SEC's best freshman.
6. Kentucky's offense finally looked like a real offense.
We've noted a couple of the better individual performances (and the worst), but the entire team looked better and finally played a game without a massive scoring drought. The Cats were making the extra passes, protecting the ball and SHOTS WERE FINALLY GOING IN. They shot it well, took good shoots, finished around the rim, made their free throws---everything looked good, which is why they scored the most points all year, one more than the Morehead State win. Great job, everybody.
7. Kentucky's defense is really good.
LSU hadn't been held to under 70 points all year until Kentucky did it Saturday night, a third straight game of keeping opponents in the 60s.
UK is up to No. 13 in KenPom's defense rankings.
8. We got robbed of Jacob Toppin time.
Jacob Toppin continued his run of steady play with a 3-for-4 night from the field, a couple rebounds and a couple assists, but when you're behind Keion Brooks chasing his first career double-double, you're not going to get much clock. Toppin got stuck behind Brooks and that Sarr/Jackson lineup Cal loves, so nine minutes was all he could get.
Lance Ware made the most of his time too. He got 17 minutes and was very aggressive inside.
9. Photos from the game:
Big thanks to Mont Dawson for filling in behind the KSR lens tonight. Check out his gallery below:
10. You can't win out without winning the first one.
Kentucky needs an improbable run through the rest of the regular season to earn an NCAA Tournament invite. The Cats are desperate for a win streak against a difficult schedule and last I checked you can't have a win streak without first winning a game. Well here's one win. We'll see about two on Tuesday when Kentucky travels to Alabama with revenge on the brain.