Kentucky Wildcats Basketball

Takeaways from Kentucky Wildcats' 79-54 Win over Georgia Bulldogs

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 25:  Julius Randle #30 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball while defended by Nemanja Djurisic #42 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the game at Rupp Arena on January 25, 2014 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Jason MarcumCorrespondent IIIJanuary 26, 2014

The No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats hosted the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday in a battle of two teams with 4-1 records in the SEC. 

No one was mistaking the Bulldogs, who went 6-6 in nonconference play, for a team that was the caliber of UK, but they were a team capable of hanging around if UK let them. 

An early 19-2 run ensured that wouldn't be the case, and the Cats went on to win the game easily by a final score of 79-54. 

Here are three takeaways from the game. 

 

Starting Fast

As mentioned before, the Cats went on an early 19-2 run after the Bulldogs jumped out to an 8-6 lead with 13:47 left in the first half. 

Even against vastly weaker competition, Kentucky has struggled to pull away from opponents in the first half, but they were able to do so against the Bulldogs.

Playing hard and efficient for 40 minutes is something freshman-heavy teams tend to struggle with, but these young Cats are learning how to play hard constantly and not just in brief spurts.  

 

Balanced Effort

The Cats' fast start wasn't the result of just one player. During that 19-2 run, six different UK players scored, and the five points by James Young was the biggest contribution to that run. 

UK finished the game with 16 assists, had four players score in double figures and shot 50-percent from the field as a team. That's the kind of balance this team needs more of. 

The Cats have too often relied on Young or Julius Randle to carry the scoring load, especially early in games. On Saturday, they were looking to spread the ball early and often, and Georgia simply could not keep up with all five players. 

That's the biggest improvement this team needs to make, and Saturday's performance was a good example of how dominant this team can be when all five players on the floor are involved in the offense. 

 

Better Overall Shooting

It's also helped lead to more open looks from three-point range. Over the past four games, the Cats have shot 40 percent or better from three-point range.

This comes after a six-game stretch in which the Cats shot under 30 percent five times, according to Stat Sheet

For the year, the Cats are just averaging 31.5 percent from three-point range, so they are clearly making progress in improving their ability to score beyond the arc.

Jan 25, 2014; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Andrew Harrison (5) shoots the ball against Georgia Bulldogs forward Brandon Morris (31) in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Georgia Bulldogs 79-54. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

With their size and athleticism in the paint with Randle, as well as Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, they need consistent outside shooters to keep opponents from crashing the paint every time a UK big man gets the ball in the post. 

The Cats are also becoming more efficient with their free throws. Over the last three games, UK has shot 80.3 percent (57-of-71) at the free-throw line.

Prior to that, the Cats shot just 60.8 percent (76-of-125) there, and that's unacceptable for a team hoping to contend for a spot in the NCAA Final Four.

Whether it's in the paint, beyond the arc or at the free-throw line, these Cats are becoming more efficient at scoring in more than just one way, and at the rate they're improving, they'll be hard to stop when the NCAA tournament comes around. 

 

Jason Marcum is a student in the B/R advanced sports media program. You can find more of his work at Stripe Hype and follow him on Twitter @UK_Fans

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