Kentucky defeated an overmatched Thomas More team 103-61 in front of a crowd of 19,736 at Rupp Arena to open their exhibition season. Many stats were lopsided, including the final score, but one that stood out was transition points. Kentucky had 26 points the Saints only had 2.
Thomas More Coach Drew Cooper explained why the Wildcats are so dangerous in transition, “You have to be perfect offensively because if you give up a deflection, turn the ball over, take a bad shot and get a long rebound it’s a four-point swing or a five-point swing in a heartbeat.”
UK had twelve dunks from six different players. Kevin Knox alone had five, he finished 27 points, many in transition. He sees the promise in a fast break offense, “I think we’ll be one of the best teams in transition; Me, Hami(do Diallo), PJ (Washington), Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) we can all get to the basket in transition.”
Wenyen Gabriel, who had a double double (11 points 10 rebounds) was asked how good this team could be in transition. He wouldn’t put a limit on the potential, “I’m not putting a ceiling on that.” The “veteran” knows the team will need to lean on a fast paced offense early, “Transition is obviously going to be one of our strong suits and we are just working on that every game.”
John Calipari was asked after the game how many guys he feels comfortable with running the break, “Three, four maybe.”
His freshman point guard, Quade Green, disagrees. He thinks many more can lead the break, “I say all of us, except for the big men. Wenyen (Gabriel) can lead the break, give it up early and get it back. Everybody can except for Nick (Richards) and Sacha (Killeya-Jones).”
Green knows the team is solid transition, but he believes there is still room for improvement, “We’re real good in transition, but we still got some more things to work on. Everybody’s got to get wider, I think, so we’re going to work on that in practice tomorrow.”
Green, who finished with 9 points and 7 assists, also described a line up featuring himself and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander that could be deadly in the open court, “You got two points on the wing, you got Hamidou, he can play the three, Kevin (Knox) might be the four, Wenyen might be the five. We can all just run. It doesn’t matter who gets it at that point whoever gets the ball is the point guard.”
Calipari wants to see more consistency throughout the game when the Cats get on the run, “In the second half we didn’t run like we did in the first half. First half we got out and flew. The second half, it was like we’re just feet didn’t move as fast. There wasn’t like a sense of urgency, there wasn’t a vicious bust out, run, here I go, throw it ahead to me. We just didn’t have that.” If Kentucky improves its transition game from where it is now then this team will be fun to watch all season long.
Five freshmen started the game for UK. The transition from high school basketball to college basketball is tough but it can be easier when you are in the open court throwing down dunk after dunk.