No. 10 Kentucky defeated the Albany Great Danes in Rupp Arena on Monday night, winning 86-61 for the Wildcats’ fourth consecutive victory.
All five of Kentucky’s starters finished in double figures in the scoring column, led by 20 points from TyTy Washington Jr.
Despite the Wildcats connecting on 32 shots in 40 minutes, 17 turnovers allowed the Great Danes to keep the game close for a portion of the second half, clouding a 54 percent shooting night by UK.
“If you’re getting driven by, pushed, shoved, dunked, layed on, you cannot be confident offensively, you’re going to turn it over,” UK head coach John Calipari said.
Albany failed to capitalize on winning the turnover battle against UK, as the Great Danes scored just 14 points off of 17 Wildcat turnovers. UK in turn scored 13 points from 10 UA turnovers.
“[Albany] were playing harder than us and were ahead of the action” Calipari said. “That aggravated me more than anything.”
Kentucky came into Monday night’s game with just eight scholarship players available. Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware were both out again due to their lingering injuries, while Davion Mintz was unavailable due to illness.
When asked about the disadvantages of playing with a smaller group, Calipari put it simply:
“If someone doesn’t play well, you don’t have an option,” Calipari said. “They’re not machines, and not computers and they don’t always play well.”
Luckily for Calipari and UK, Washington and Sahvir Wheeler were not in any need of backup on Monday night.
Logging over 38 minutes each, the backcourt duo sliced and diced the Great Dane defense on a consistent basis.
“If the guards on the other team are really good defenders, they have to pick their poison, they can’t guard both of us,” Washington said about he and Wheeler.
Wheeler once again led the team in assists, finishing with seven dimes to go along with his 15 points.
The Georgia transfer knows that someone in blue and white is going to be open when he gets in the lane:
“There’s so many different things, you have to choose one or let all of us be efficient...run our speed, run our pace the way we do for 40 minutes,” Wheeler said.
Kentucky outscored Albany 13-3 in fast break points, 13-9 in second chance points and 36-28 in the paint, all of which was a point of emphasis that UA coach Dwayne Killings felt impacted the outcome of the game.
“In the second half, it was just the runs, the reason why Kentucky is Kentucky, their guys on the floor can just drill shots, step up and make plays,” Killings said. “That’s what makes them a really good program.”
Oscar Tshiebwe managed to record his fourth double-double of the season in just 23 minutes.
The star forward once again found himself in foul trouble, limiting his time on the court against the Great Danes.
Calipari noted that Tshiebwe was frustrated due to the four foul calls made against him on Monday.
“[Tshiebwe’s] going to get the foul crap,” Calipari said. “He’s going to get fouled, grabbed and pushed, he’s got to deal with it.”
Tshiebwe played just 20 minutes in UK’s win against Ohio, as he picked up two personal fouls within the first minute of the game.
“His advantage is 255 (pounds,) in the eyes of others, that’s a disadvantage,” Calipari said. “It’s what it’ll be, and we’ll deal with it.”
Kellan Grady connected on three of UK’s five 3-pointers against UA en route to a 14-point performance from the Davidson transfer.
Grady shot just seven times, struggling to get separation from the Great Danes, as he was a focal point of UA’s defensive game plan.
“They’re working hard not to get [Kellan] shots...you have to work really hard to get plays now,” Calipari said. “You have to work harder than they’re working to keep you from scoring.”
11 of Grady’s 14 points came in the second half, as the guard was able to adjust to Albany’s defense and impact the game.
“[Albany] was hugging me, no matter what side of the court the ball was on, so thankfully I was able to get involved and have some effects in the game, especially the second half,” Grady said.
The victory makes four on the trot for Kentucky following their season-opening loss to Duke.
Up next for the Wildcats is a post-Thanksgiving date with the North Florida Ospreys.
Calipari knows that while his team has the talent necessary to finish as one of the bets in recent memory, there is plenty of work to do as conference play begins to approach.
“I like this team, this team has a chance, I got to do my job and hold them accountable,” Calipari said. “I don’t care about the clutter, people can say what they want, I got a job to do, and I got to get this team right, because we have some pieces that can do this.”