Exhibition games are just a step above the Blue-White game. The outcome of these games is rarely in question and the Cats generally face teams with far less talent. Still, exhibitions do serve a useful purpose. It gives the players a chance to compete against someone new in real, game-time situations. For these young Wildcats, playing Thomas More College also provided the opportunity to face a team loaded with juniors and seniors, something they cannot replicate in any practice.
Not surprisingly, the game wasn’t a thing of beauty, especially in the first half. The refs called more fouls (31) than Thomas More had points (30). While it’s hard to get into any kind of rhythm with so many stoppages of play, the Cats shot a blistering 83.3% from the free throw line (15-18) and finished 22-30 (73.3%) And we learned something very important: Kevin Knox is the man to have shooting free throws when the game is on the line. Knox went 10 for 10 from the strike and was the game’s leading scorer with 27. He also added 5 rebounds, 1 block, and 2 steals in 28 minutes of play.
When the Cats weren’t fouling in the first half, they were grabbing rebounds, bringing down a total of 28 in the half and 49 for the game. While 20 offensive boards is a solid number, it is clear that Cal is placing a premium on offensive rebounding this season. He mentioned having told Sacha Killeya-Jones that “he will play” if he plays defense and rebounds. Sacha responded to the challenge in the first half bringing down 7 rebounds (5 offensive) in only 6 minutes of play. I can’t help but believe Sacha’s offensive game will come around as he gains more confidence and experience on the court. A strong rebounding SKJ is a good SKJ.
Also evident last night is that Quade Green is good. Cal said he was probably the best shooter on the team and proof of that could be found by watching Quade shoot 3-4 from beyond the arc. Cal’s advice to Green is very simple: pass the ball quicker and he’ll have a much greater chance of the ball getting back to him so he can shoot. Sound advice, but the 7 assists that Green dished out weren’t bad either. (Cal’s full post-game remarks can be heard in the 2 videos below.)
There’s no questioning Nick Richards’ talent or his effort on the court. But we’ve learned he has to improve his technique to reduce the number of fouls he draws. Richards picked up 4 fouls in the first half last night (one was a technical, presumably for arguing a foul call). He still managed 14 points and 3 rebounds in just 17 minutes of play. The lesson here is pretty clear: we need Nick Richards on the court.
Wenyen Gabriel and PJ Washington both notched double-doubles (10 pts., 11 rebs. for Gabriel, 15 and 10 for Washington). That Washington had such a solid performance was not surprising. But fans are quickly realizing Wenyen is greatly improved over last season. He was active on both ends of the court and provided a steadying influence on the younger Cats. I fully believe we will see great things from Gabriel as the season progresses.
Thomas More coach Drew Cooper had a great time. In his post-game remarks, Coach Cooper heaped praise on the Cats, but even more so on the UK staff for the great treatment given to him and his team. To hear all of Cooper’s comments, check out the video below:
One exhibition down, two to go and these young Cats will need all the experience they can get before they start the games that count. The talent is there and the desire is there. The execution will only come with time and experience. It might be a bumpy ride early in the season but look for smooth sailing as tournament time rolls around. These Cats are good.
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