No. 10 Kentucky cruises past North Florida 86-52

Freshman TyTy Washington Jr. scored 14 points to lead the Wildcats

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/UK ATHLETICS) –  TyTy Washington Jr. scored 14 points to lead No. 10 Kentucky to an 86-52 win over North Florida on Friday night.

Oscar Tshiebwe had 12 points and 15 rebounds for Kentucky (5-1), while Damion Collins made his first career start and scored 12 points and Sahvir Wheeler had 12 points and 14 assists. Dontaie Allen added 14 points off the bench, all but two coming in the second half.

Jayden Parker led North Florida (1-6) with 10 points.

Kentucky made just six shots from long range, doing most of its scoring in transition with 28 points. The Wildcats forced 21 turnovers and scored 20 points off those miscues.

Kentucky struggled early and trailed by five early in the first half, but scored 23 of the last 30 points of the first half and led 37-23 at the break.

The Wildcats were without veterans Davion Mintz and Keion Brooks Jr., who sat out with undisclosed illnesses. Mintz has missed the past two games, while Brooks, the team’s second leading scorer (14.5 points per game), had scored in double figures in the previous four games.

Jacob Toppin (shoulder), who had missed the past four games, returned to the lineup and finished with three points. Lance Ware (ankle) had missed the three previous games, also returned and scored four points.

HOMECOMING

Former Lexington Christian Academy standout and Mount Sterling-native Carter Hendricksen finished with eight points for the Ospreys. He came into Friday’s game averaging a team-high 13.8 points per game and needs just 38 points to join the school’s 1,000-point club.

BIG PICTURE

North Florida: The Ospreys played their first five games — all losses — on the road and will eventually play nine of their first 11 games on the road. Three games are against Southeastern Conference teams: Texas A&M (64-46 loss on Nov. 10), Kentucky and at Florida on Dec. 8. North Florida also has lost to No. 2 UCLA, Texas Tech and Arizona State.

Kentucky: The Wildcats could climb in the Top 25 poll Monday following No. 4 Kansas’ 74-73 loss to unranked Dayton on Friday. … Kentucky improved to 11-0 against teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference on Friday.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: Hosts Central Michigan, which is coached by ex-Wildcats assistant coach Tony Barbee, on Monday night before taking an eight-day break.

North Florida: Plays at Florida International on Sunday.

To view the UK-North Florida box score, click here.

Here are postgame quotes:

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari:

Q. The flow and team chemistry – how hard is it given the fact you’ve had someone missing every single game?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, one guy’s misery is another guy’s opportunity. I loved how Daimion [Collins] started the game, but then he starts shooting step-back threes. What are you doing? Block shots, rebound, go dunk some, and every once in a while, make a jumper or two. But you’re not playing for that.

Like the time he had TyTy [Washington] in the corner yelling one more, and he was going to show his stuff. They ran the guy over. What are you doing? What are you doing? Well, he hadn’t played that much. But what’s the impact he has on the game? You see the impact.

We tried to play Jacob [Toppin]. He just hadn’t played. So, he ran up and down four times. He was gassed. And the way we’re playing now, like I told him after, what we’re trying to do is continue to run for 40 minutes. If you can’t do that when you’re in, you’re not going to be playing much. If you’re not understanding why we’re doing this, we can eventually wear them down a little bit.

And we may have some teams that we don’t wear down. That’s fine. But you’ve got to shoot the ball better then. Again, Dontaie [Allen], I told him, ‘You can miss shots. If you fight, I’ll leave you in.’ He didn’t fight early in the game. He didn’t come up with the ball, he ran the wrong way, he pushed. You’re not missing shots and playing. Then all of a sudden, he missed shots, but he fought. When we came in at halftime, the guys said, ‘That’s the way to fight, Dontaie.’

I’m giving them the answers to the tests. You can miss shots if you fight, if you defend, and if you go after balls. So, it was great to see him make shots. Kellan [Grady] missed a bunch, but he made twos, which were good for us.

Oscar [Tshiebwe] did okay. He tried to grab balls with one hand. You know how many of those he brought in? Zero. He would have had five more rebounds. Why are you doing that? When did you start doing that?

We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m trying to figure out how we are going to play late in the game. What are we trying to get done? When it’s winning time, what do we do? What’s the best way to play if you have Oscar and Daimion in? How do you play now offensively?

I tried to have Daimion run to the rim and let’s see if Oscar’s making shots, but Oscar missed them all today. Now, he is a good shooter, but he missed shots. So we’re still a work in progress.

Here’s what I like. We fought, and we defended. That’s what we did. We scrambled. We played. We came up with balls, and we flew. A lot of breakdowns.

We only had six turnovers in the second half. We had seven turnovers from our bigs in the first half. Seven. Come on guys, that’s too many.

Q. Now that he’s back, what does Jacob [Toppin] bring to this team that he can add to the rotation?

JOHN CALIPARI: Energy. Energy. He has got to shoot balls. He may not make them, but to drive baseline and step out of bounds, you’re not doing that. Shoot the ball. What if I go 0-for-9? Where are you tonight? You’re in the gym shooting. I don’t know what to tell you. You’ve got to take the shots that are there, because when you don’t, they all lead to turnovers.

He’s a good shooter – not a great shooter – but he’s a good shooter. Shoot the ball, and then get in the gym more. Live in there like some of the other guys have.

By the way, love what Bryce [Hopkins] did. We give it to the guards on our team because they’re great distributors. You’re not coming down the full court and doing this. All you’ve got to do is give it to him and run, give it right back to you.

So, I took him right out. You’re not doing that here. Why would you do that? You know how we’re playing. Thirty seconds later, I stuck him back in, or a minute and a half later, and then he played. I mean, we need him. No question – we need him. I’m just glad to see him make some baskets and defend the way he did, and come up with balls.

Q. You made a big deal in preseason about the guys talking to each other. We’re a long way out, but it looks like they’re communicating better out there. How is that going?

JOHN CALIPARI: Oscar didn’t do it. Daimion’s still learning. Bryce is still learning. Dontaie, he communicates with sign language. The problem is, when two guys come together and neither one talk, something bad is going to happen for us and something good for them.

I’m just over it all. I don’t want one guy to talk. I want both guys to talk. You hear a guy say one more, throw it immediately because, when you say one more, you want it. We held it a little bit today in the first half. There’s a lot of clutter. There’s a lot of noise they’re hearing, but it was good.

Q. I saw Oscar doing it some tonight, but big guys have done it for as long as the game has been around. Why do they catch the ball up high and bring it down low to reset? Is that one of those old habits you have to break?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, he did two today and got them right in. Then you would say, ‘Why wouldn’t you do that?’ Because he has a habit of bringing it down, and we talked about it. We’re trying to figure out ways where we can get him the ball and he can just score it, but that’s hard against good teams.

Second thing for he and Daimion and a couple other guys, you can’t accept a block out. In other words, we shoot it, and they put their back on your chest. You never have a back on a chest. Never. So, the shot goes up, I move that way or that way. Maybe I spin. I do something. You tell me why would a guy do this versus that? It’s way easier. I’m not going to do it. It’s too hard. Again, you’ll get three or four more offensive rebounds as a team if you move instead of not blocking me out. I’m going to move, and you’re going to have to move with me. You move with me, it’s hard for you to rebound. If you’re standing here like this and don’t move, yeah. But now try to do this and then go get the ball.

Look, I haven’t done a good job with Oscar offensively. I know I haven’t. We’ve got work we’ve got to do, and we have to have post presence. Like I told him, I said, ‘You understand five balls, instead of having 16 rebounds, you would have had 21.’ And then the whole team laughed. He had 16 rebounds, and you’re getting all over him. What are you talking about? He’s leading the nation in rebounding. But why not five more?

Q. With Davion and Keion [Brooks] both having illness issues, are you concerned about some greater thing in the team right now? Are those connected?

JOHN CALIPARI: I am. My son was sick. Three managers were sick. So I am. I wish I could make them take flu shots, but I can’t. I had mine the other day. Normally, I won’t, and it’s not because I don’t trust, I just don’t like getting shots. I know I need to get it, but I hate to scream in front of girls who are watching me get a shot.

Let me say this too with Matt [Driscoll]. The reason I laughed is that he threw a couple yinzes. He is a Pittsburgh guy. He played at Slippery Rock. If you’re at Pittsburgh, you know Matt. You know him as a terrific coach.

But he has put his team through a gauntlet, and they played well. I’m telling you, I watch games with five minutes to go, it’s a two bucket game, three bucket game, against Arizona State, against Grand Canyon. I watched, even with UCLA, it was a tie game with ten minutes in the half, kind of like they did to us.

They’re going to be ready for their league. My guess is they’re going to be a team to be reckoned with, and he’s running good stuff. They missed shots. I think they wore out a little bit. They missed some shots that they normally would make.

#4, Daimion Collins, Freshman, Forward

On his first career start …
“I feel like I played good but I could’ve done better. But overall, I played good and helped the team bring out the win.”

On putting in solid minutes and having a good performance …
“It felt real good just being out there and playing with my team helping them get the win. Just being out there felt real good.”

On only shooting 24 percent from three but still winning by 30 …
“It says a lot. We do all the extra work like rebounds and getting to the rim, stuff like that.”

On being comfortable with taking shots on the perimeter and playing on the inside …
“I’m pretty comfortable with both because in high school I played outside and inside so you know being able to play with that versatility feels real good.”

#34, Oscar Tshiebwe, Forward

On if he’s ever been jumped over like he was in the first half by Damion Collins …
“Nope, I did not even see him coming to be honest. Like come on man, you can’t do that to me!”

On how the team refrains from becoming discouraged …
“The way we run, no one can run with us. Most teams quit in the middle but we scored, and scored, and scored, so that they couldn’t run with us.”

On how the team did not shoot threes well yet still won …
“For us, if we don’t shoot the three well, we can always go rebound and run. That’s one thing we do best and not many people can keep up with that.”

On how he believes the freshmen are improving and impacting the team…
“They’re learning how to play college basketball. I’m so proud of them and they’re doing so good. They’re going to help us in the long run and by the time we get to January, February, and March, we’ll be very good.”

#2 Sahvir Wheeler, Jr., Guard

On Coach Calipari wanting the team to talk to each other more during play …
“I am a talker. I like to talk. But it’s not just one person. I think Coach Cal is trying to get a collective effort. Everyone has to talk. Everyone has to pitch in because everyone sees something different in the game. We’re not all standing at the same place or guarding the same person. Everyone has a different perspective, so if you can share knowledge, share what you see that can help us, then we encourage that. Especially guys like Oscar (Tshiebwe), Daimion (Collins), Lance (Ware), Jacob (Toppin). Those guys are typically guarding bigs, and bigs are always at the back. They’re not on the front court guarding the ball, they’re in the paint. So, they can see all the action, so they could talk us through it. And those guys talk off the court, so if we can get them to talk on the court, that can help us tremendously.”

On how he applies pressure without fouling …
“That goes back to what I wanted to get back to doing when I decided to come to Kentucky- being effective or being a disruptor on the defensive end, but also putting a lot of pressure when I’m on offense. Part of that is conditioning. You can’t really do that if you’re tired. If you do that every three possessions in a row and then you need a break, now the defense is like ‘okay he’s only going to do it two or three times so you’re good’. So, I think a lot of it is conditioning and a lot of it is trust. If I’m pressuring you, I know that I have help. So, if I get beat, on a rare occasion, I have someone behind me that can block the shot, or help, and I can rotate over to their man as well.”

On knowing other players can step up when another is out
“It’s super valuable. That’s one of Coach Cal’s biggest things- next man up. You don’t know when your opportunity is going to come, so that comes with maybe one night you won’t get as much playing time, but the next night something like this, where Keion didn’t play tonight, so Daimion’s number was called , like right before the game, and he came out here and performed. So, having that confidence like just because you know last night last game wasn’t my chance doesn’t mean it isn’t my turn this time. So just constantly having the ‘next man up’- being prepared. Being prepared in the film, being prepared with your game, being in the gym, also being prepared as far as paying attention in shootarounds, knowing the details of what we’re trying to accomplish as a team and what we’re trying to take the other team out of. All that together comes with responsibility, that comes with being prepared, to allow you to have performance just like he did tonight.”

On if it’s hard to get continuity when playing with different lineups …
“I don’t think it’s hard to get a lot of continuity. I think the biggest thing is that we play with so many different lineups in practice. Coach is always switching us around trying new things. And we know each other. That goes back to the summer off the court, building that trust, building that camaraderie so when someone gets on the court, it’s comfortable. And it’s going to only continue to get better. So, I’m excited when someone else comes in.”

North Florida Head Coach Matthew Driscoll

On the game…
“I know the million-dollar question is based on the schedule that we play. You guys want to know exactly where these Cats fit right now.  When you just did what we just did Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Grand Canyon, Arizona State, UCLA, and then come here I’ve been doing this 34 years, 13 at this school and this is our 68th Power Five game. It is what it is, it’s what we have to do, it’s all part of it. I will tell you this, I thought they really, really guarded, I thought they really were connected defensively and I thought they had the ability to be one of the best defensive teams, because of not only their length, but their IQ.  Seeing them live, I think your kid, I know he’s not a shooter, I know he’s not a good shooter at all, and I told him after the game, (Sahvir) Wheeler, if you continue to do what you do and be the player that you are, this team has a chance to really be special. If you try to listen to everyone else who is on the outside then you could really screw up what you guys have. The way he defends the ball at the point and the way he pushes the ball to the rim and puts pressure on you, it’s great to see, it’s exciting for these guys to see. I would say of the teams that we’ve played you guys definitely have the best package on both ends of the floor, you don’t have a lot of shooters but you have the right guys getting shots. You don’t have a lot of shooters but you have guys that find them when they are open. Number 34 (Oscar Tshiebwe) I can’t pronounce his name is one of the greatest rebounders in basketball right now, and he took away a dunk that he could have had and kicked out for the first three in the half to TyTy (Washington) to me that says they are really connected and you can see that they have great love for each other. Obviously, the first three medias went our way. It was the way we wanted it to go except for the turnovers. We’re obviously a heavy three-point team. I think we turned down some that we could have gotten, but to their credit they put a lot of pressure on us as well. You guys should be really excited about where you’re at and where you’re going.  I guess Ohio State is the next one that you guys will be the most eager to see your team compete against and you guys are going to have a very good year.”

On Kentucky not being dependent on Kellan Grady
“So, number 23 (Bryce Hopkins) made a couple shots tonight that he normally doesn’t make, and maybe he’s a better shooter than we think, but statistically he hasn’t proved it.  Number 11 (Dontaie Allen) and  number 31 (Kellan Grady) obviously are gifted, TyTy, I think he made one tonight maybe, but my point is that’s what I said earlier in my opening statement, they don’t have a lot of guys out there at the same time but their guys find each other, and the reason is because Wheeler, the guy that’s driving the Lamborghini, a Porsche NIL, whatever that guy drives for you, like Wheeler, he knows where to find guys and he knows where to be. If you are number 11 and number 31, you’ve got the greatest job in America, all you’ve got to do is stand there and wait for the ball to come to you. To his credit, he’s great at it, and to Coach Cal’s credit obviously I am a Pittsburgh guy, grew up there my whole life went to Slippery Rock, he went to Clarion so he obviously made a bad choice, that’s something they’re really going to flourish with because they have that balance. ”

On physicality…
“The good thing about that question is, I’m going to give you an answer. It’s not going to resonate with me, you know Coach Cal is going to tell you whatever he wants to tell you, but again, I have been at the highest level.  I have been at Baylor, I know what it looks like. Those dudes are really really physical, they’re really physical, Texas Tech was really physical, A&M was really, really physical. He’s got those guys playing at a level that’s maybe higher than it’s been in the past, but they’re definitely playing physical. I think the biggest key will be when you go against someone that looks like you, someone that has the same girth as you as well, and I don’t think, I’m 100 percent positive as a matter of fact, Wheeler’s not going to back down, number 34 is not going to back down TyTy’s not going to back down, Brooks, he didn’t play tonight, but he’s a tough dude. (Daimion) Collins came in and gave them great minutes as well. A couple of your guys came back number 55 (Lance Ware) and number 0 (Jacob Toppin) for us obviously I don’t know them very well because I haven’t seen them as much but you’re physical, you’re physical and he should be proud of that. ”

UNF Student-Athlete

#3, Carter Hendricksen, Junior, Forward

On first experience playing a game in Rupp Arena …
“It’s definitely a dream come true. Growing up in Mount Sterling, me and my dad used to come to the state tournament all the time and sit in the arena and I would be like, ‘Man, I really want to play here one day.’ We got really close my senior year of high school, and it just didn’t go our team’s way. But the coaching staff made this opportunity for our team to come play here, and nobody’s going to play in a better atmosphere than that, or in a better arena than that. I could go down the list of all the great players and great teams that have played here. It’s just a really cool place. The fans here are awesome. There are not any better fans in the country than Big Blue Nation. It’s really cool playing in front of them and being home and seeing everything. To play in Rupp Arena for the first time was really cool.”

On dealing with the defensive pressure that was put on him by Sahvir Wheeler …
“You said it right there. The pressure he puts on and the physicality he plays with on our guards and everyone he play against is really impressive that he can carry that out for the 35 minutes, 36 minutes that he played. It’s a testament to his conditioning and his ability to play like that. It’s really impressive.”

On Kentucky’s physicality compared to other teams they’ve played …
“They’re up there. We’ve played Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Grand Canyon, and UCLA already. They’re definitely up there. Texas Tech was really physical, but, Oscar Tshiebwe down there with 16 rebounds. He’s one of the best rebounders we’ve ever seen. He’s really strong and impressive. They’re definitely physical. The more physical I think they can be, the better off.”

 

Categories: Featured, Solid Blue, Sports