Kentucky Basketball: 5 Things We Learned from the Win over Wichita State
Well, that turned the season around in a hurry.
In a year that has been dominated by disappointment, this young Kentucky team is coming together at the right time and making a run toward the Final Four.
Their win over the previously 35-0 Wichita State team showed a lot about these Wildcats as they head to a Sweet 16 matchup against Louisville. Let's take a look at what we learned on Sunday.
The Harrison Twins Are Stepping Up Their Games
The twins came to play, y'all.
Nobody has been questioned on this Kentucky team more than the Harrison twins. It hasn't all been fair, but it hasn't all been off base, either. Both of these young men have had plenty to answer for.
Against Wichita State, they answered loud and clear. Displaying leadership and clutch play, both of the Harrisons delivered time and time again. It wasn't perfect, but both players showed up when their team needed them to.
Andrew only had three assists to his six turnovers, but shot 6-of-9 from the floor and delivered a team-high 20 points. Aaron played all but one minute of the game and knocked down four of his seven three-pointers, netting 19 points of his own.
So much of Kentucky's up-and-down season has had to do with the up-and-down play of the Harrison twins. And they are on an "up" right now.
They Can Make Free Throws!
Lord have mercy, this team made their free throws.
They shot 16-of-22 for the game, but most importantly they were 5-of-6 in the last minute and knocked down some very crucial freebies.
I've always said the Wildcats didn't need to be perfect, but they needed to be good enough at the line to win a game. I guess 72.7 percent is good enough. I will take it.
Julius Randle Can Still Take over
After a lackluster SEC tournament, some Kentucky fans (including myself) wondered if we were going to see the same Julius Randle in the NCAA tournament that completely took over games and looked basically unguardable.
Randle stepped up against Kansas State, but he fully went into beast mode against Wichita State. He was a factor in every part of the game. He scored 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting, grabbed 10 boards (half of them on the offensive end) and, maybe most impressively, had six assists.
But most of all he was aggressive the entire game and looked to make plays. And he made plays. Wildcat fans are happy to see this Randle back, and we hope that he never leaves.
They Can Survive an Elite Opponent
I'm not talking about Wichita State, I'm talking about Cleanthony Early.
Early played about as well as you can expect an opponent to play. He dropped 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting and hit big shot after big shot down the stretch when the Shockers needed a bucket.
If Kentucky can survive a game like that from an opponent, they can survive just about anything.
Big players make big plays in big games. Big teams overcome that.
They Need Their Scorers to Score
This may seem like a given, but it's so crucial to this particular Kentucky team.
For all of their talent, the Wildcats only have four scorers: the Harrison twins, Randle and James Young. They can get contributions here and there from Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, but they can't really rely on them for consistent point production.
The players whose primary job it is to score must score, and they all stepped up against Wichita State. Each of the four "scorers" posted 13-plus points. That kind of production is crucial to this team's future success.