In Sunday’s victory over Virginia Military Institute, the Kentucky Wildcats followed a very simple concept that many basketball coaches will attest to; you can teach a lot of things, but you can’t teach size.
The Keydets used their well-taught Princeton offense to rain down upon the Cats a Rupp Arena record 19 three-pointers led by guard Bubba Parham’s 10-16 performance from deep to take UK to the wire but in the end, the No. 10 Wildcats used their size and strength to hold on to beat the Keydets 92-82.
For the game, the Cats enjoyed a 43-22 rebound advantage over the outsized Keydets, led by 6-7 forward PJ Washington’s 18-rebound performance. UK has outrebounded each of its last three opponents by 21 or more. Kentucky is plus 79 on the boards for the season for an average of 19.8 a game.
UK was able to use their length to dominate the lane (UK won points in the paint 42-14 and second-chance points 23-3) and the glass, forcing VMI to go bombs away from deep.
And boy did they.
VMI launched three-pointers from every conceivable corner and spot in Rupp Arena, causing BBN to have eerie thoughts on the last time VMI paid a visit to Lexington, a 111-103 upset of the Wildcats in 2008.
Every time the Cats could extend their lead, the Keydets were able to squelch UK’s momentum with a three-pointer. Of their 29 field goals for the game, 19 were threes.
Parham was simply electric from deep, taking advantage of the Cats' inability to find VMI shooters quickly enough. The results were almost devastating to UK. Parham had a game-high 35 points. Some perspective:
Parham knocked down 10 of the Keydet’s 19 3-pointers. That’s the second most for a single player against the Cats. Only Corey Allmond (11) from Sam Houston State on Nov. 19, 2009 has hit more in a game against Kentucky.
Parham scored a game-high 35 points. It’s the most points the Cats have given up in a game and in Rupp Arena since Texas A&M’s Elston Turner scored 40 on Jan. 12, 2013.
Fortunately for the Cats, UK’s bigs Washington and Reid Travis were able to use their size advantage to help bail the Cats out. The 6-8 Travis led Kentucky with 22 points and added six rebounds. Washington added 19 points to his 18 rebounds.
However, it was a UK guard who might have had the last laugh. Sophomore Quade Green came off the bench to add 17 points and perhaps the final dagger to the Keydets with a three from the top of the key to give the Cats an 11-point lead with under a minute to go.
The Cats also enjoyed a healthy advantage from the foul line, going 29-35 from the charity stripe, led by Travis’ 10-12 performance. In comparison, the Keydets were 5-5 from the line.
Remember BBN, these young Cats are still a work in progress. The Wildcats are everybody’s Super Bowl. They catch every team’s best shot. They took VMI’s for sure, but understand UK is finding ways to win. It’s pretty apparent that while the guards find their way, UK’s bread and butter is their size and strength.
Size does matter.
Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats will host Winthrop on Wednesday for the third of the four-game Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase. That game is slated for a 1 p.m. tipoff on the SEC Network.
Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist located in Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow Shane on Facebook, on Twitter @shack_daddy_1, or on his website Coach Shack’s Corner at www.wixsite.com/coachshackscorner. He can also be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.