Player breakdown from Kentucky's 79-70 victory over Harvard
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Player breakdown from Kentucky's 79-70 victory over Harvard

Jack Pilgrim12/02/17


Article written by:Jack PilgrimJack Pilgrim
After a dominant performance against UIC last Sunday, many fans thought the Wildcats took a major step forward and more blowouts were in the making. In the following press conference, John Calipari told reporters not to get too excited about the win and that there was still a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, Coach Cal was right. Kentucky had several opportunities to take today's game against Harvard over and win in convincing fashion, but unfortunately, the Crimson hung around right to the end. Here's how your Wildcats did:

Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have separated themselves as UK's superstars

Kentucky looked for their go-to guys earlier in the year, and it seemed nobody wanted to be that person. Knox was ice-cold from the field and didn't assert himself much on offense, and Diallo's tendency to play out of control and inability to make jumpers limited team success. After finding their grooves, both Knox and Diallo have been absolute studs for the Wildcats. Just one game after scoring a career-high 25 points, Knox finished the day with 20 points, seven rebounds, one block, and one steal in the victory. His jumpers are falling consistently, offensive plays are running through him and he's converting, and defenses have yet to figure out how to stop him. Even more impressive, however, was his presence on the glass. When he was aggressive, he was able to grab the rebound and take off with the ball to allow the offense to dominate in transition. Versatility is key with this team, and when Knox is able to control the game on both ends of the floor, it's a scary sight. Diallo finished the day with 19 points, six rebounds, two assists, and two steals in quite possibly his most complete game of the year. His shot wasn't falling from deep, but his control and patience when driving to the rim was a thing of beauty. He almost brought the house down on one missed dunk, but made up for it on several other highlight plays at the basket. He only turned the ball over once and had a ton of confidence with the ball in his hands, which terrified the defense. Nothing was forced, one of the big problems we saw with Diallo to start the year. Diallo is one of the best athletes in the nation, but when he slows down and lets the game come to him, he's one of the best overall players in college basketball. Tonight was one of those nights.

We saw Nick Richard's mean streak

After a horrible start to the year, we're starting to see exactly why Calipari loved Richards so much coming out of high school. The Wildcat center finished with nine points, seven rebounds, three blocks, and an assist, including two ridiculous put-back dunks. Richards' confidence has been soaring the last few games, and we're finally seeing his five-star potential shining through. Richards has been a bit reckless on defense, and as a result, he has been in a good bit of foul trouble this season. He told KSR this offseason blocking shots and grabbing rebounds was "second nature" to him, but it has been an adjustment to start off his college career. In the last two weeks, his timing and instincts have been incredible, and it has translated to a plethora of blocked shots. If Richards can put up stat-lines similar to tonight throughout the year, Kentucky will be just fine.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's length is a problem

On defense, he's jumping the passing lanes and not making it easy for the opposing offense. With the ball in his hands, he's able to get wherever he wants on the court and either put the ball in the basket or get fouled. Tonight was the perfect mix of both. SGA finished with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 28 minutes. He was also 8-8 from the free throw line. He's been struggling with turnovers, but with just two tonight, I think Coach Cal can live with that. Kentucky has their own version of a Swiss Army Knife, and his impact on the floor has been one of the biggest surprises of the year.

Sacha Killeya-Jones is the perfect role player

Nine points on 4-4 shooting, two rebounds, and two blocks in just 18 minutes is the absolute perfect performance for Killeya-Jones. After such a quiet first year at Kentucky, the sophomore big man has found confidence and is thriving in his bench role for the team. As some of the other frontcourt pieces have been finding their groove, SKJ has been the one constant, and it has been much-needed. With PJ Washington struggling a bit, could Killeya-Jones find himself as a permanent fixture of the starting lineup? It's entirely possible.

Quiet day from Quade Green...

Two points on 1-5 shooting in 30 minutes on the floor was a bit underwhelming. We've seen SGA and Green bounce off each other well, with Gilgeous-Alexander carrying the defensive load and Green being the spark on offense. Tonight, SGA had to pick up the slack on both ends. We've gotta see Kentucky's star guard get back on track.

When will PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel show consistency?

Each player did some impressive things tonight, but we're still waiting for them to provide consistent production on the floor. Washington finished with three points, five rebounds, one assist, and fouled out in just 18 minutes. He had a few signs of bully ball, where he completely dominated the defender and impressed on a play or two. Almost immediately after, he'd disappear. Gabriel managed five points, two rebounds, two blocks, and three steals in 22 minutes. The energy was high and the Kentucky sophomore made a ton of hustle plays, but finishing just 1-3 from the field isn't enough offense from a guy with so much potential. Killeya-Jones and Richards have stepped up their play, but we have to see consistency from those two.

Jarred Vanderbilt would be a massive help

The offense is missing that third natural scorer behind Knox and Diallo, and many people expected injured forward Vanderbilt to be that person going into the year. Calipari has been uncertain about when the five-star recruit would make his Kentucky debut, but let's hope he gets going in practice and sees the court soon.
Go Cats.

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