By Jamie H. Vaught
LEXINGTON, Ky. – If you look at the final stats in Friday night’s UK-East Tennessee State University basketball game, you’d think the Wildcats might have lost the matchup at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky was careless as it committed 22 turnovers as compared to ETSU’s 16 miscues. In addition, the Wildcats were shooting bricks from the line, hitting only 3 of 15 free throws for a paltry 20 percent.
ETSU (1-2) also grabbed 19 offensive rebounds as well.
But it was defense that saved the Cats, propelling them to a 78-61 win over the Buccaneers as ETSU hit only 32.4 percent of its field goals.
“It’s their length. You and I talked about this before,” said ETSU coach Steve Forbes of Kentucky's defense. “My biggest nightmare coming in here was trying to decide how we were going to get our baskets, and early on we got them (when the Bucs had a 10-point lead in the mid-first half). We did a good job of that early on and made shots, but to me, defensively, their biggest thing is just their size, their length and athleticism. You don’t get clean looks, and that makes it really hard.”
It certainly helped when the Wildcats also shot well from the field, hitting 33 of 58 baskets for 56.9 percent. Freshman guard Quade Green (pictured) pumped in 9 of 13 shots for a game-high 21 points, including 3 of 5 three-pointers.
"We need him to be aggressive and to make jump shots," said Kentucky coach John Calipari of Green.
Forbes also praised Green's performance.
“He was good," said the former Tennessee assistant. "He was a guy that gave them a spark when they needed it. He played with a lot of confidence, I thought on offense. He came off the ball screen to make some shots.
"(We) probably didn’t do a good job of defending that and giving him that look. But he’s a good player, and just watching him play, just a small sample of what I’ve seen, they need a dude to be aggressive like that at the point."
Wildcat rookie Kevin Knox followed with 17 points and 10 rebounds, his first career double-double. He has also scored in double figures in all four games this season.
"This is definitely an ugly win," said Knox. "We’ll take the win, but we don’t want to win like that. Like coach Cal said in the locker room, if they’re hitting their shots we probably would’ve lost. Against good teams, we can’t play like we did tonight. Like Cal says, enjoy the win and we got to get back to work.”
Kentucky, now 3-1, hosts Troy on Monday, Nov. 20 in 8 p.m. contest (SEC Network) at Rupp Arena.
Photo by Elliott Hess, UK Athletics