No. 16 Kentucky chases a more complete performance on Friday night when the Wildcats host Texas A&M-Commerce in Lexington, Ky.
The Wildcats recorded a 40-point win in their season opener, but only after Kentucky overcame some anxious moments in the first half before running away with an 86-46 win over New Mexico State on Monday.
Rob Dillingham scored 13 of his 17 points after halftime to lead five players in double figures for Kentucky (1-0). Fellow freshmen D.J. Wagner had 13 points, Justin Edwards and Reed Sheppard added 12 and fifth-year senior Antonio Reeves contributed 11 for the Wildcats, who benefited from a 17-0 run over the final six-plus minutes of the game.
Kentucky shot a sizzling 58.8 percent in the second half and 49.2 percent overall for the game. Not too shabby for a team that is adjusting to the turnover from the departures of Oscar Tshiebwe, Jacob Toppin, Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston.
“I recruit the best players we can get and then we figure out how we are going to play. And this is a crazy one,” Wildcats coach John Calipari said.
“There’s not one way to do this, you have got to do it this way. There’s not one way. You look at your team and you say what’s the best way for them to play. And normally, you know, it takes me time. We had Toronto (four exhibition games in GLOBL JAM 2023), so I had a head start. I had a little look at this and how we are trying to do this.”
Calipari referenced what he labeled as “random” basketball. When pressed for a definition, he clarified: “We are spacing the court and we are playing off of one another. That’s random basketball. So spacing, wide, there’s actions that will happen.”
The Wildcats finished with 17 assists and 13 steals, committed six turnovers and held a 47-35 edge in rebounds.
“We rebounded because the guards rebounded,” Calipari said. “Robert got five. Reed had five. Antonio stuck his nose in there a few times. (That’s) going to be who we have to be.”
Kentucky has Friday’s contest versus Texas A&M-Commerce (0-2) to work out the kinks before tipping off against top-ranked Kansas on Tuesday in the Champions Classic in Chicago. As it relates to the size concern, the Jayhawks are now led by former Michigan 7-footer Hunter Dickinson. But that’s next week’s worry for Calipari.
Up first, the Lions, who attempt to rebound after dropping a 78-46 season-opening loss at Texas A&M on Monday and a 73-46 decision to Texas Tech on Wednesday.
“This is not acceptable, it’s not OK just because they are a really good team and you’re on the road,” Texas A&M-Commerce coach Jaret von Rosenberg said after the loss to the Aggies. “Our older guys have to be more consistent with how we do things, and can’t get caught up with the fact that it’s a game.”
Jerome Brewer Jr. recorded 13 points and a team-best five rebounds versus Texas A&M and 11 and nine, respectively, against the Red Raiders.
–Field Level Media