It wasn’t all that pretty for most of the game but the Kentucky Wildcats gritted out a win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs tonight at Rupp Arena. After back to back losses on the road at South Carolina and at home last Saturday against Florida, the Cats bounced back with a 13-point victory over the visiting Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The Cats were led in scoring by PJ Washington who accounted for a career high of 22 points plus 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 3 steals. Knox added 19 and Gilgeous-Alexander added 16 (plus 6 assists). The Cats shot 43% from the field and just under 77% from the free throw line.
The Cats used a 13-2 run and a 6-0 run in the second half to close out the Bulldogs for their 15th win of the season (5-3 in conference play).
While the Cats continued to look sluggish at times again tonight, Knox and Washington played extremely well when this team needed it the most. Knox didn’t score his first points in the second half until the 12-minute mark when he knocked down a deep three from the corner. Washington was consistent the entire game and showed the leadership this team has been missing much of the year.
This team made strides tonight (still a lot of improvement needed looking ahead), especially holding onto a double-digit lead late in the game and winning by 13 plus limiting turnovers to just 11 for the game. Coach Cal was asked why he thought the team was able to finish so well tonight, he responded simply …. “We Made Free Throws, We Made Free Throws.” The Cats finished 23-30, just under 77% from the charity stripe.
Cal talked at length during the post-game press conference that he had made a change to the substitution rotation and now has a set rotation of players after 3-5 minutes on the court. He noted that the most efficient rotations tonight were all with Wenyen Gabriel on the court. Is this the change this team needed? A maximum amount of time that you will be playing? Knowing that taking a bad shot or making a terrible turnover won’t get you taken out of the game? Maybe just what the doctor ordered! We shall see.
Set Rotation = More Motivation?
Cal joked at length that he changed the definition of an assist in an effort to get his team to pass the ball. Basically, there are now 100 ways to record an assist according to Coach Cal. Funny stuff from Coach in his effort to continue finding ways to motivate this team.
The Cats go on the road Saturday night to play #7 West Virginia. This will be a tough road game for the CATS and may have the potential to be a season-changing game, especially if Cal and the Cats can find a way to win against a top 10 team on the road in a tough environment. Set rotation. A new method to record assists. Is it just Cal talk or just what this team needs to make a late-season run and be prepared for March? I’m not sold on the assist deal but I do think a set rotation may add some structure that this young team needs to become more efficient and effective during games. Only time will tell.
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