Kentucky made the trek to Morgantown, West Virginia and they were in desperate need of a big-time win. The #7 Mountaineers provided that opportunity. However, the ‘Cats came into the game 10 point underdogs and seemingly very overmatched.

When the game was announced, we all knew it would be a tough game for UK, even when we thought they were a top-10 team. Turns out, sending a team full of freshman to the Snake pit/Hornets nest/Sarlacc pit is an even taller order than we already thought.

FIRST HALF

The game started about as bad as it possibly could for Kentucky. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was stripped immediately and West Virginia went down for a breakaway dunk and the already rowdy dome was flat out rocking.

Kentucky was a turnover machine early on, they had 8 turnovers in the first 9 minutes. Then, they had 10 turnovers on their first 22 possessions. However, they were shooting 60% and staying in the game. It was 20-19 at one point thanks to Kentucky utilizing their fast break to perfection and hitting timely shots.

However, that is when Javon Carter decided to lose his mind. At one point he hit three straight three-pointers and ended the half with 18 points. Kentucky was down by 17 points at one time and it was in grave danger of turning into an embarrassment.

However, Quade Green and Kevin Knox hit three consecutive threes themselves to pull to within 12 points. A fluke three near the buzzer gave West Virginia a 15-point lead at the half. However, it felt like UK had made a bit of a comeback and still had a chance… albeit a fading one.

For Kentucky, Nick Richards was overmatched the entire half and it was simply a game he could not be trusted in. He missed another dunk, and could not compete with the higher energy and stronger Mountaineers.

Hamidou Diallo had two fouls and was a non-factor, and SGA surprisingly did not handle the ‘Press’ Virginia pressure very well. The ‘Cats were lead by Kevin Knox’s 15 points in the half. Quade Green’s ability to seemingly get back into his groove was a big shot for UK and provided some hope for the 2nd half.

HIGHLIGHTS

SECOND HALF

Amazingly, Kentucky turned over the ball before a second ran off the clock to begin the half. Kentucky got a 5-second call to start the half, sigh.

Kentucky did continue chipping away with a big Kevin Knox three early, and a flagrant foul on a Diallo breakaway got the ‘Cats to within a very doable 12 points.

As UK continued to chip away, Javon Carter came back down to Earth and you could just feel the momentum moving to the good side. A HUGE Hamidou Diallo corner three got the ‘Cats to within 7 points and a Bob Huggins timeout and a lot of quiet ‘eers fans.

The rally for UK up to this point had been a team effort; Kevin Knox, Diallo, SGA, Gabriel, and others sparked the ‘Cats. Kentucky would see another Knox three giving him 23 points and 4-6 from deep to bring it to 6 points. A defensive stand and an amazing pass from SGA lead to a Richards layup, and then a Kevin Knox offensive rebound and dribble drive to the rim got it to 2 points and another West VA timeout.

The ‘Cats would not let up and West Virginia could not answer the fight of these young ‘Cats. They would tie it up and then take the lead on a runout to Kevin Knox for the dunk.

The #BBN in attendance was pumped and started a Go Big Blue Chant and the fight was officially on for UK-WVU the rest of the way.

Momentum shifted again to the Mountaineers when Beetle Bolden hit back-to-back threes and an errant out of bounds save gave them a runout layup to go back up by 4 points and the fans were officially back in beast mode.

The teams would trade shots back and forth down the stretch and Kentucky would get a monster bucket from Wenyen Gabriel on a putback and then a hold on defense following by Kevin Knox getting fouled put UK in control of the game with under 3 minutes to go.

After Knox went over the 30-point mark to give UK a 4-point lead with 2:29 to go, UK had the chance to control the ending.

Kentucky was leading by 3 points when Nick Richards got stripped, going up for a layup, and immediately West Virginia hit a three to tie it. The man himself, Kevin Knox once again came up MONSTROUS with a 3-pointer to take the lead back and put a dagger into West Va’s momentum.

The Mountaineers would miss the front end of a one and one and UK would see a GIGANTIC putback jam by Nick Richards to give UK a 5-point lead with 28 seconds to go.

Kentucky would hold on for the win and leave Morgantown with an absolutely GIANT win in a place where a bunch of Freshmen should NOT have won. Kentucky was down 17 and looked like they were about to get blown out and embarrassed.

Kevin Knox put this team on his back and carried them to a win. That is something no other player has been able to do so far. Could Kentucky have found their guy to lead them into March?

CONCLUSION POINTS

  • Kevin Knox brought the heat, and he showed the player he CAN be for UK
  • Jared Vanderbilt is a rebounding machine, he had 10+ boards in limited minutes
  • Quade Green is back to form
  • Nick Richards recovered from a horrible first half to contribute nicely
  • Wenyen Gabriel had some HUGE plays and played with great energy
  • Hamidou Diallo did not contribute a ton, but he had a huge 3 and some timely boards
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander struggled at first, but he recovered to get some big rebounds and some excellent passes.
  • This team showed a great resiliency I did not think was possible. Great sign going forward.

 

Image courtesy of NCAA March Madness Twitter