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John Clay: For one shining Saturday, this inconsistent Kentucky basketball team was simply brilliant

John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

LEXINGTON, Ky. — They lose focus sometimes, and they don’t always guard, and they don’t always fight for loose balls, and they can make the kind of basic mistakes that can drive even the most hardcore member of Big Blue Nation to the edge of the nearest ledge.

But when they’re on, oh man, when these young Kentucky Wildcats are ripping and running and passing and shooting and moving and grooving, they are a sight to behold.

Saturday, the Cats were brilliant.

There’s no other word for it. In UK’s 117-95 romp over SEC leading Alabama, the Cats shot 63.1% for the game. They made 13 of 24 3-pointers. They were credited with 24 assists on 41 made field goals. They scored 58 points in the first half and 59 in the second.

Stat of the day: Alabama shot 56.7% from the field and trailed by as many as 37 points and lost by 22.

“Kentucky was ready to play and we weren’t,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said afterward. “Cal had his guys ready and I didn’t.

 

Oh, Kentucky was ready alright. After that stunning buzzer-beating 75-74 loss at LSU on Wednesday — the game in which the Cats blew a 15-point second-half lead in Baton Rouge — Calipari’s club was apparently champing at the bit to prove themselves yet again in a big game against a big-time opponent.

Last Saturday, they did so with defense. Unexpected defense. Not exactly this team’s strong suit. Still, the Cats found a way to hold the Auburn Tigers to 59 points on the way to handing Bruce Pearl’s team its first home loss of the season.

This Saturday, in the friendly and loud confines of Rupp Arena, they did it with offense. Dazzling offense. Explosive offense. Even some unexpected offense.

Say hello to Justin Edwards. You remember Edwards, the No. 3-rated prospect in the class of 2023 by 247Sports, the 6-foot-8 freshman from Philadelphia who had struggled to live up to the hype. He was averaging 8.1 points per game and shooting a mere 31.1% on his 3-point shots.

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