The Kentucky Wildcats’ 87-63 victory over the visiting Valparaiso Crusaders was one of those games on the schedule that doesn’t exactly sizzle, but it is one of those games that’s a part of the puzzle that the Big Blue Nation hopes ends at the Final Four. After suffering their first defeat of the season (a 97-92 home loss to UCLA), the Cats had plenty to work on against Valpo. Like most of John Calipari’s teams, this group is young and it’s going to take some time for them to completely come together and play to their potential.
Outside of the big time match ups, Coach Cal peppers the Kentucky schedule with teams that are going to propose unique challenges to his annually young Wildcats and Valparaiso wasn’t any different. For weeks, Calipari has been talking up the Crusaders’ Alec Peters. On the season, Peters averages 25.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. The objective for the Wildcats would be trying to shut down Peters and make the rest of the Valpo team beat them. In the end, Peters finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds, both below his season averages and he had to take 20 shots to do it (only hitting 9).
Kentucky came out slow on Wednesday night, with 7 turnovers in the first four minutes of the game, but settled down relatively quickly. The game was tied at four at the Cats went on a 21-0 run, their longest such run of the season, to effectively put the game out of the way. The defense was key as the Crusaders didn’t break double digits until nearly 14 minutes into the game.
What we know:
Overall, the game was what the BBN expected it to be. The win was a nice bounce back game after a disappointing loss to UCLA. The Cats are now 35-7 under Calipari after a loss. With the victory over Valparaiso and the upcoming game against Hosftra, the Cats will have two tough games next week as they head to Las Vegas to take on North Carolina on December 17 and then to Louisville to play the archival Cardinals on the 21st. In a long season, it’s good to have bounce back games to get ready for the upcoming challenges.