This one was never close. The Wildcats took care of Radford in short order, scoring the game's first 14 points and building a 31-point lead by halftime on their way to a 48-point thrashing of Rupp Arena's latest sacrificial lamb.
Despite the inferiority of the opponent, the Wildcats showed a number of extremely positive signs. For one, freshman PG Marquis Teague put together a solid overall performance, turning the ball over only twice while notching five assists to go along with 13 points and two steals. He showed his overwhelming quickness against the opposing backcourt while getting around defenders at will and played within the flow of the offense for most of the game.
Additionally, the Cats showed a commitment to defense and hustle that you rarely see in a team this young. Even with the game out of hand Kentucky players were still playing rugged defense and diving for balls late in the second half. Championships are usually won by this kind of effort, and it is a credit to Cal and his staff that these kids really want to do whatever it takes to win. If they continue this kind of dedication to hard work and great defense, they will be downright impossible to score on by March.
And of course, it continues to bode well for the Cats that so much of the scoring burden is shared across multiple players. Nine players scored for UK, with five in double figures, and about a quarter of the team's offensive production came off the bench--always a good sign. The BBL believes that getting reliable production from the bench, via Wiltjer and Miller especially, will be a key throughout the season. As it stands, the Wildcats have had four different players lead in scoring through five games.
And finally, as promised earlier in the week by Coach Cal, the Wildcats as a team showed a lot less needless bravura and cut down on the poses and trash talking. They played a clean game vs. an overmatched team, but they managed to win by nearly half a hundred with class…if that is even possible.
So as it stands, UK is 5-0 and a clear No. 1 or No. 2 team, depending on whom you ask. And it's a moot question anyway, as UK gets the other consensus top 2 team at Rupp arena in a week. Of course, sandwiched between now and that titanic clash are a date with Portland and a matchup with St. John's that should not be overlooked. The Johnnies have some great athletes and, even though they've lost two games, both came vs. ranked opponents in very close games.
In looking around the nation, for the sake of comparison, it was interesting to see that 6th ranked perennial media favorite Duke needed late game heroics to pull out a win vs. a Kansas team that UK handled with relative ease last week in Madison Square Garden. It's very early and hard to say much about any team's long term prospects, but at the very least, it appears that Kentucky's double digit win over the Jayhawks might end up looking pretty solid. And before SEC play, the Cats still have a the Tarheels, No. 7 ranked Louisville and an undefeated Indiana team on the road.
Stay tuned. It's going to be a fun preseason...