Julius Randle finished with 29 points and 10 boards and Willie Cauley-Stein chipped in with 16 points and seven boards as No. 19 Kentucky withstood an early three-point barrage to knock off Belmont 93-80.
The Bruins were scorching from beyond the arc in the first half, taking a lead that stretched to as much as 11, but Kentucky’s defense started to tighten up in the second half. Those three-point looks weren’t as clean in the second half. The problem, however, was that much of that defensive improvement coincided with the Harrison twins struggling with foul.
Dominique Hawkins played really well for the Wildcats, but the problem with relying on Hawkins to be a guy that sparks the defense is that he’s much better suited to playing teams at Belmont’s level than he is to playing some of the nation’s elite programs. He can make like difficult for J.J. Mann or Craig Bradshaw. Can he do the same against Kasey Hill or Jordan Clarkson?
There were two other good signs coming out of Saturday’s win.
For starters, Kentucky made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside to Randle. He’s the guy that Coach Cal needs the offense to run through. He’s the guy that can rip off a 29-point, 10-board performance like it’s nothing. This comes after the North Carolina game, where the Kentucky offense devolved into far too much one-on-one.
The other positive was the play of Aaron Harrison. He finished with 23 points, eight assists and seven boards, continuing what has now turned into a month of terrific play. Andrew was the more-hyped of the twins in high school, but Aaron has been terrific this season.
Bassett will require surgery in his right foot and his projected recovery time will be four-to-six months. The injury will force Bassett to redshirt the 2016-17 season.
A three-star recruit coming out of Oldsmar Christian in Florida, the 6-foot-9 forward wasn’t expected to be a big contributor during his first year with the Gators, but his loss does hurt some of the team’s frontcourt depth. With John Egbunu, Devin Robinson, Justin Leon and Kevarrius Hayes all returning, the Gators should have plenty of players to use in the frontcourt this season without Bassett.
Once Bassett is healthy and able to play next season he showed good athleticism and an ability to hit the glass hard while he was in high school. Bassett should be able to join Florida’s rotation as an energy defender and rebounder right away.
Iowa State lands four-star Class of 2017 guard Lindell Wigginton
Iowa State has its point guard of the future as four-star Class of 2017 prospect Lindell Wigginton pledged to the Cyclones on Friday.
The 6-foot-1 Wigginton is regarded as the No. 40 overall prospect on Rivals.com as the Canadian has spent the last few seasons at powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. With an ability to play both guard spots and defend a few spots, Wigginton is a valuable addition to head coach Steve Prohm’s ballclub as Wigginton could help replace Monte Morris after he exhausts his eligibility.
Wigginton is going to need to improve his consistency on his perimeter jumper, but he’s a good pull-up scorer who can make plays for himself or others off the bounce. Iowa State’s Class of 2017 recruiting haul now includes Wigginton, four-star wing Terrence Lewis and three-star guard Darius McNeill.
This commitment is huge for Prohm as Wigginton is the most highly-regarded recruit that he has landed with the Cyclones. With Prohm’s point guard history with guys like Isaiah Canaan at Murray State and Monte Morris now with Iowa State, Prohm did a nice job of finding his next young guard to mold for the future.
Davidson star Jack Gibbs to miss a few weeks with shoulder injury
Davidson senior guard Jack Gibbs is one of the most under-the-radar players in college basketball as he will be among the nation’s leading offensive threats this season if he’s healthy.
But health is going to be a question for the 6-foot-1 guard as Gibbs is dealing with a shoulder injury that will sideline him for 2-to-3 weeks, according to head coach Bob McKillop. McKillop told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that tests came back negative for Gibbs and he’s expected to be back for the Wildcats’ season-opener. The injury for Gibbs occurred during Thursday’s Davidson practice.
As a junior, Gibbs averaged 23.5 points, 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game as he became one of the nation’s premier offensive players. Gibbs is going to be a huge key for Davidson this season as he needs to be healthy in order for the Wildcats to make it back to the NCAA tournament.
VIDEO: Dennis Smith Jr. electrifies N.C. State fans at team’s scrimmage
N.C. State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. excited fans with some absurd plays at the team’s Primetime with the Pack event last night.
The highly-touted, five-star prospect is the most electric prospect to come to the Wolfpack in years and Smith had the crowd buzzing with some highlight-reel dunks during the team’s 20-minute scrimmage.
Smith made one teammate look silly by putting it between his legs and throwing down a vicious dunk during one play while he also threw an alley-oop to himself to finish another break.
Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk is going to be one of the newcomers to keep an eye on this season as the 6-foot-3 Arkansas native is an explosive scorer who packs vicious athleticism.
Monk showed Big Blue Nation some of what they can expect to see during Friday night’s Blue/White Scrimmage as he unleashed a ferocious dunk in some traffic and also had another good dunk in transition. While Monk has great lift off the floor, he also isn’t afraid to cock the ball back and put some authority on his dunks. He’s going to be a ton of fun to watch this season.