Two exhibition games are in the books and the next one is for real.
Kentucky completed its final tune-up for the upcoming season with a commanding 122-54 rout over Dillard University Friday night at Rupp Arena. The dominating performance gave Kentucky coach John Calipari plenty of optimism to build on heading into Friday night’s season-opener Friday night at Rupp Arena.
Although Terrence Jones paved the way with a double-double, featuring 23 points and 10 rebounds, the Wildcats got a solid effort from top to bottom in the uneven matchup against the Bleu Devils and placed seven players in double figures.
One of those players was former Mr. Basketball and Madisonville North-Hopkins standout Jon Hood, an obvious crowd favorite.
The sophomore guard turned in his best outing as a Wildcat and poured in 18 points and knocked down four of Kentucky’s 11 shots from long range. Hood made seven-of-nine shots from the field and dished out four assists in 18 minutes of action off the bench. Although the statistics will be tossed out the door next week, Hood’s outing displayed his potential for the upcoming season.
Hood is known for his perimeter shooting, but didn’t get a chance to show it last season while standing in the background on a team that featured five first-round draft picks. Now, as one of the team’s most experienced players, Hood is making the most of his opportunities.
Prior to the contest against Dillard Friday night, Hood spent more time working on his shot and it showed. He arrived early to get a head start on the pre-game rituals and it carried over into the contest.
“In shoot around, I thought I shot the ball pretty well today,” he said. “I came early and shot a little bit, and I thought I shot the ball really well. I was pretty confident.”
Hood and the Wildcats have also benefitted from more intense workouts, which became the norm following a win over Pikeville in the first of two exhibition games earlier this week at Rupp Arena. Hood said the extra emphasis on being aggressive in practice played a big part in the team’s performance Friday night. Hood saw signs of team chemistry, which will be a key for the team to be successful.
“Practice has been really physical,” he said. “I mean, it’s exactly what coach has said it has been. We started to click tonight. Terrence (Jones) played really well and everyone had energy, which was really nice.”
Calipari was pleased to see Hood produce a breakthrough.
“(I’m) Happy for Jon Hood, you know - happy (with) how he played,” he said.
As Kentucky shifts its attention to the regular season this week, Hood hopes the Wildcats can continue the upward trend against East Tennessee State in the season opener Friday night at Rupp Arena.
“It’s still just the preseason,” he said. “We have a long way to go - not only for me, but the team in general. We still have a long way to go and a big weekend coming up, so we have to just move forward.”
Story by Keith Taylor. Photo by Victoria Graff.
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