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Keldon Johnson makes Utah pay for defensive gamble, Cats roll 88-61

Keldon Johnson made five 3-pointers. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Keldon Johnson hit five 3-pointers in the first half to let Kentucky overcome a 10-2 deficit to start the game to blitz Utah 88-61 Saturday in Rupp Arena.

Johnson finished with 24 points on 8-for-9 shooting, including 6-for-7 from 3-point range.

Coming into the game, Johnson was 8-for-25 from 3-point range and that included the half-court shot he hit to force overtime at Seton Hall.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said the plan was to keep Johnson from his strengths — getting to the rim and going to the foul line.

“We were willing to live with some of those 3’s. We were trying to play the numbers and it didn’t work out in our favor,” the Utah coach said. “You have to pick your poison about how you want to guard them. They have been pounding people on the glass.

“We had a pretty good plan but Johnson hitting five 3’s in the first half was a big story along with our mindless turnovers. We played zone pretty much the whole game and that’s what you are going to have to give up.”

Tyler Herro went 7-for-12 from the field, but just 2-for-6 from long range, to add 17 points for Kentucky while center Reid Travis, who didn’t get his first shot for almost 15 minutes, had 16 points.

“We knew if he gets the ball in the post it is going to get to the rim pretty quick,” Krystkowiak, who played against Travis when he was with Stanford, said.

Immanuel Quickley was the fourth Cat in double figures with 12 points and went 4-for-7 from the field with two assists.

“When he tries too hard, he gets tentative,” Calipari said. “As he sees more, he will just let loose.”

Kentucky went 12-for-21 from 3-point range and got 34 points off 18 Utah turnovers.

“I am telling you, this is one of the best 3-point shooting teams I have had but we are not going to shoot 30 3’s a game. That’s not how we do it,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “But we were willing passers, our spacing was better and they played zone. I didn’t think they would play that much zone but thank goodness we prepared some stuff for it.

Even if Jemarl Baker comes off the bench and hits two straight 3’s in less than two minutes at the end of the game?

“I forgot about him on the bench,” Calipari said — and that could be true because this was UK’s first game after Quade Green’s transfer and Calipari has to adjust the playing rotation.

The Utah coach said Kentucky’s pressure defense created enormous problems for his team.

“It’ hard to guard this team in transition. You can’t defend turnovers and the foul line,” Krystkowiak said.

Calipari said even though Nick Richards didn’t score, UK needs his defensive presence.

“I am telling you we need Nick so people don’t just think they can drive in and score,” Calipari said.

3 comments

  1. Let’s have some fun. Do we look like we are ready for the Heels??..could get very ugly. Let’s be honest gang..up until the last 8 mins or so none of us were really feeling that good. Let’s PRETEND that it was a fun game to watch, that we really were into the game, and that we really be a factor in March. We may have to settle for pretending. A big shout out to Johnson, Quickly, and Herro…maybe a little less for RT and PJ although Reid did pick it up second half. Still hard to figure out PJ and his inconsistency. We did pass the ball better, shoot better, decreased turnovers but got out rebounded. Nick has got to be a cancer in the locker room and everyone seems to want to baby him along. Am wondering if he and EJ are roomies because both leave a ton to be desired. Maybe we will show that we belong next weekend.

  2. What a difference a week makes !!!
    GO BIG BLUE…BEAT UNC and make me eat crow.

  3. I watch NC dismantle Gonazga there going to be hard to beat. But they were playing on there home floor plus Gonazga was playing without one of there starters. I got faith that our cats will show up next weekend and this game will measure how much we have improved if indeed we have improved. Go Cats!!

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