Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s 92-82 win over VMI:
1. Either Kentucky’s defense was bad or Bubba was just berserk.
That would be Bubba Parham, VMI’s 5-foot-11 sophomore guard who rained three-pointers down on the Cats all night long. We’re talking rainbow, kiss-the-sky three-pointers. We’re talking 10 of 16 three pointers on the way to 35 points in a losing cause.
Coming into the game, Parham was nine of 26 from three-point land. In one Sunday night game, he topped that by one.
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Was this a night you’ll tell your grandkids about?
“Yeah,” Parham said. “And I hope to have more.”
For the game, VMI set a Rupp Arena record by a UK opponent, making 19 of 38 three-pointers for 50 percent. The previous record for made threes by a Kentucky foe was 18 of 38 by Sam Houston State back in John Calipari’s first season, 2009-10.
So was Kentucky’s three-point defense that bad? In its first three games, the Cats saw Duke go 12 of 26 from three; Southern Illinois go five of 16 from three and North Dakota hit seven of 19 from beyond the arc.
“I’ve got to go watch this tape and watch every single three,” Calipari said afterward. “If you look historically from my time here, my guess is our three-point shooting defense is usually around 30 percent, 29, 31. Right now we’re probably at 40 percent. And so some of that is, if you asked me, how much have you worked on that? We haven’t done much and we haven’t talked to them much about it.”
It might be time to start.
2. Kentucky is killing it on the glass.
Even in the 118-84 disaster that was the Champions Classic loss to Duke in Indianapolis, UK lost the battle of the boards by just one (38-37) to the Blue Devils. Since then, Calipari’s Cats have outrebounded Southern Illinois 48-19 and North Dakota 45-15.
Sunday, they crushed the Keydets on the boards 43-22. (The count was 27-11 in the first half.) PJ Washington grabbed 18 rebounds to go with his 19 points. UK had 18 offensive rebounds to VMI’s 16 defensive boards, the third straight game in which UK was above 50 percent in offensive rebound percentage.
“I do know this,” said Calipari, “we’re physically tough, we can rebound like crazy. I love the fact that we can throw it to the post. I love the fact that we’re an offensive rebounding team. I’m going to say it again, we should be a better three-point shooting team.”
On the night, UK was five of 14 from three-point range. Quade Green was three of five. The rest of the team was two of nine.
On the bright side, the Cats made 29 of 35 free throws for 82.9 percent.
3. Rupp Arena attendance is off to another rocky start.
The announced attendance for Kentucky’s first three 2017-2018 home games:
Utah Valley: 19,807
East Tennessee: 20,168
The announced attendance for Kentucky’s first three 2018-19 home games:
Southern Illinois: 20,277
North Dakota: 19,555
The attendance for the UK-North Dakota game — a 9 p.m. mid-week start with ice in the weather forecast — was the lowest for a Kentucky home game at Rupp Arena since only 18,059 came to see the Cats play William & Mary on Dec. 22, 2004.
One noticeable absence is the students. The E-Rupption zone was nowhere near close to full for either the North Dakota or VMI games. You can blame Sunday on the start of Thanksgiving week, but that was not the case last Wednesday.
I’m not for blaming the students, however. I’m for playing a better home schedule.