Kentucky vs. Portland: Wildcats Turn Up Heat in 2nd Half, Blow Out Pilots 74-46

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Kentucky vs. Portland: Wildcats Turn Up Heat in 2nd Half, Blow Out Pilots 74-46
USA TODAY Sports

Saturday afternoon had the Wildcats turn in a completely opposite performance of the one they had against Samford on Tuesday evening. Instead of coming out hot and rolling to an uninspiring finish, Kentucky overcame first-half sluggishness and miscues to earn a strong finish against the Portland Pilots.

The Wildcats once still showed plenty of flaws while going up against a far weaker opponent, but there were also plenty of signs that this December might not turn out as badly as the Big Blue Nation had previously feared.

 

The Good

  • Kyle Wiltjer didn't exactly light the world on fire, but it did look like he is finally starting to break out of the shooting slump he has been stuck in for the past few games. In addition to scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, he also had an incredible move through the lane for a basket in the game's opening minutes.
  • Ryan Harrow showed huge strides on his way to being the team's main point guard. He played significant minutes and did a fantastic job (eight points, four rebounds, six assists compared to only one turnover), which included some beautiful assists to his teammates.
  • Alex Poythress was also tied for the team high in scoring with 15 points, but he also shot incredibly well, too (6-of-8, 1-of-2 from behind the arc).
  • Nerlens Noel continued his habit of getting it done all over the court, this time falling just short of a triple-double (seven points, nine rebounds, seven blocks).

 

The Bad

  • Many of the Wildcats' 14 turnovers today were due to unforced errors; Portland only recorded three steals.
  • As was mentioned before, the Wildcats looked incredibly sluggish in the first half. While it was great to see them turn it on after halftime, a slow start like that will be virtually impossible to overcome on the road and/or against tougher opponents.
  • Defensive miscues were a constant issue during the first half (and a large portion of the second), particularly when it came to keeping Portland from driving into the lane.
  • Three-point shooting continued to be less than stellar; Kentucky was 4-of-13 from behind the arc (30.8 percent).
  • Free-throw shooting was also pretty terrible; the Wildcats were 12-of-22 (54.5 percent) from behind the stripe.

 

The Weird

  • The crowd at Rupp Arena was unusually quiet. Larry Vaught seemed to confirm this, tweeting that the atmosphere was actually pretty depressing.
  • John Calipari has instituted rigorous AM workouts (per Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal) in response to his team's apparent lack of conditioning and toughness. If the second half of today's game was any indication, it's starting to pay off.

 

All stats via ESPN.com

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