LEXINGTON – December 21, 2022 – Mike Willis
Nothing short of a blow-out victory against the Florida A&M Rattlers was going to be acceptable for the Big Blue Nation. The feeling around the basketball program is perhaps at an all-time low since the beginning of the Calipari-era. After losing three games against Gonzaga, Michigan State, and UCLA has the fans wondering if this team will ever turn a corner to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. A decisive victory would go a long way to building the confidence of the fans and the players.
Florida A&M were the first to get on the score board to open the game, but the Cats scored the next 18 points in the first six minutes of the game. During this time, they forced 6 turnovers and it looked as if the game was over early. However, Kentucky went 4 minutes without field goals and the Rattlers took advantage pulling back within 9. Lack of offense and leaving players wide open on defense kept Florida A&M in striking distance to end the first half with the Cats up 42 to 32.
The Wildcats opened the second half like they did in the first half and pushed the lead to as many as 21 points. However, Florida A&M took advantage of the lack of Kentucky’s lack of defense and continue to remain within striking distance. A 14 to 0 run by the Rattlers pulled the them within 7 points with 5:30 left in the game. Better defense and a pair of late game three-pointers put the game out of Florida A&M’s reach for good as the Cats won 88 to 68.
There is no doubt that Kentucky’s MVP of the game was Cason Wallace who ended the night with 29 points and 9 assists. Wallace made 5 of this 6 three-point attempts and had 4 steals. Calipari played Wallace at the point more tonight and that allowed his scoring to become much easier.
Chirs Livingston continued to play well scoring 8 points and grabbing 2 rebounds in only 15 minutes of playing time. Livingston give Kentucky a third scoring option when he is in the game which they desperately need. His improvement should earn him more playing time in the future.
Usually, a 20-point win can be called a blow-out victory, but the 88 to 68 Wildcat victory can hardly be considered one. Perhaps it was looking forward to the holidays or not taking the opponent seriously, but the Cats were not focused on the defensive end for most of the game. The Wildcats will be test in their first SEC game when they face Missouri on the road on Wednesday night.