Albany Kentucky Basketball

Kentucky's Kellan Grady looks for a teammate while defended by Albany's De'Vondre Perry (2), Paul Newman (24) and Trey Hutcheson (3) during the Wildcats' win Monday night in Lexington.


No. 10 Kentucky discovered what it looks like with a short bench.

UK only had eight scholarship players because of injuries and illness on Monday night. It didn’t matter much because of the opponent, and UK did handle Albany 86-61 at Rupp Arena.

The talent differential was such that UK would be able to overwhelm Albany with just a steady performance, but it was a chance for the Wildcats to see what they could do when they were having to mix and match rotations.

With Davion Mintz missing because of illness, and Lance Ware and Jacob Toppin still nursing injuries, UK had Daimion Collins, Dontaie Allen and Bryce Hopkins available as potentially productive scholarship players off the bench.

Collins had the most production of the trio in a springy, high-energy 18 minutes. The things he did got noticed by more than a few in the quiet crowd of 18,000 at Rupp Arena.

A Collins blocked shot and rebound led to a Kellan Grady 3-pointer that pushed Kentucky in front 59-39. Collins showed just how high he can get above the rim on an alley-oop dunk in the first half.

“That stretch that helped us spread the game out, Daimion was blocking shots, rebounding, throwing it to the rim,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “He did some good stuff today.”

Allen was noticed for the good chances he had from 3-point range, but none of them fell. Allen, who made his name briefly last season with his occasional sharpshooting, was 0-for-5 from distance. He played 13 minutes, so he had chances to get comfortable.

“One of the guys said to Dontaie, ‘Dude if you make two shots, we’re going to break this open,’ ” Calipari said. “I want him in there shooting balls. I kept saying just keep shooting. I told him after the game when I go to my office tonight, I’ll probably see you in the gym shooting, right? You’re getting your opportunity, now you’ve got to take advantage. We need him.”

With rotations all over the place because of the short bench, UK had to take the points where it could find them, and most of that came from two of the starting guards.

TyTy Washington Jr. scored 20 points to lead UK, and he also had six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. One of those rebounds was when Washington snuck in for a follow on a missed free throw. Washington also showed his downtown distance shooting the ball in the first half.

Sahvir Wheeler also created some action with 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds. His drives with high floating jumpers were impressive at different spots in the game.

Keion Brooks had 17 points, Kellan Grady had 14 points, Oscar Tshiebwe finished with 10 points, 14 rebounds and four fouls. Collins finished the game with four fouls also.

Tshiebwe was limited to 23 minutes on the floor.

Calipari was asked how he thought the team played without Tshiebwe out there.

“I’d rather not see what we can do without him. I’d rather him be on the floor,” Calipari said. “Again, when you’re getting two and three guys thrown and hold and grabbed and kicked, anything you do looks like a foul. That’s why I’m saying I’ve just got to send in the tape and say tell me.

“When he’s on the court, we’re better because he just grabs everything. We’ve got to get him better around the goal. Now, you know what I did late in the game for him? Jump shots. I know he can do that. He may be our best 17-foot shooter. But we’ve got to be able to get something around the goal, especially when you catch it three feet, get something.”

Kentucky got something in total out of this win that got it to 4-1. It saw how it could play through a short bench.

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