The Kentucky men’s basketball team now has a signature win on its ledger for the 2022-23 season.
The Wildcats played their first regular-season game in Europe over the weekend, defeating Michigan by four points as part of the Hall of Fame London Showcase at the O2 Arena in London.
In the immediate aftermath of Kentucky’s first win this season against a major conference opponent, one of UK’s senior leaders helped put the game into perspective for Wildcats fans.
Senior guard Sahvir Wheeler scored 11 points and had seven assists against the Wolverines, and spent time postgame on UK team radio with Jack “Goose” Givens to discuss the win and what it means for Kentucky going forward.
Here’s everything Wheeler said on the radio after Kentucky’s best win of the season so far.
Q: I would like to just talk first about this being a feel-good win, one that Kentucky can build on and take away with some confidence.
A: Definitely, as you said it’s a take-away win, a win we can build on. Going back to our previous two showcase type games, we feel like the first one we gave that away with Michigan State, a lack of execution on both ends. And the one at Gonzaga we felt like we fought, but our start was so bad it was hard for us to overcome.
So, I think this time we finally put it together: We had a good start, they battled back, we battled back, it was a back-and-forth game and we were able to get some stops and also make some big time plays at the end of the game for us to win.
Q: Sometime these types of games are better than the ones you win by 20, 25 points, because you really learn about yourself.
A: I love these games. This is one of the reasons, I say it every time, why I came to this school, is to be in these type of environments, to be coached by the best coach, to play against the best competition, in these type of stages, in this big-time venue and, obviously, to come home and to bring home the win is even better.
Q: There’s a difference in your game when you have the ball with more time on the shot clock compared to when you get the ball with less time on the shot clock.
A: I think that stuff, we’ve all gotten better at, especially the past couple days leading up to this game. We were grinding it out, working on execution in practice, doing two-a-days, focusing on how to make baskets and sometimes it’s not going to come easy, but you’ve got to make a basket.
That’s what we did today and multiple guys did that and that led us to the win.
Q: Free-throw shooting has been an issue, and it will continue to be an issue, until you guys make them.
A: We know that, we work on them. But I think ... getting this win and knowing that we could have made some more (free throws) is definitely going to wake us up. Games like this, especially in conference play and the NCAA Tournament, this is stuff that we’ve got to do. And even the coaches, they held us accountable after the game like, ‘Yeah, man. Great win, great team win, but we’ve got to make free throws.’
Coach Cal said he’s going to play the guys that he knows he can trust to make free throws at the end of the game and if we want to be in at the end of the game, we know we’ve got to prove to ourselves and to the coaches and everyone else that we can make those free throws.