No. 5 Kentucky survives slow start, beats Utah Valley

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It wasn’t pretty for No. 5 Kentucky, but they got the job done.

The Wildcats put together a listless, ugly first half, digging themselves a 37-25 hole at home against Utah Valley while shooting a miserable 7-for-33 in the first 20 minutes. A switch to a 2-3 zone early in the second half caused a couple turnovers, and that brought Rupp Arena – and the Wildcats – to life. Kentucky finally ended up pulling away for a 73-63 win.

After a couple of fast break dunks, a couple more turnovers and a handful of threes, Kentucky had stretched their lead out to double-digits and they were able to slowly squeeze the life out of an overmatched UVU.

On the surface, this probably looks concerning, but if you’ve been paying attention, the only surprising part of what happened on Friday night in Lexington was that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got the start and played the majority of the minutes at the point for Kentucky.

Kentucky is incredibly young, with just one rotation player returning from last year’s team. They are loaded with athletics and big men, a team built on length, athleticism and potential more than anything else. They don’t have all that much perimeter shooting. They don’t have a go-to guy in the half court. They, quite frankly, are not going to be a pretty basketball team to watch when they run offense.

That’s just who they are.

We knew this group was going to take some lumps early on this season. They did in the first half on Friday night, and still found a way to run away with the game down the stretch.

The key for this Kentucky team is going to be their growth. John Calipari’s teams always get better as the year moves on, and that will certainly be the case this year.

So be patient, Big Blue Nation.

These kids will get there.