It never even got close. Kentucky was able to jump out to a quick lead and maintain it in their 101-70 rout over Arkansas, increasing their winning streak to 19 games and all but guaranteeing a #1 ranking on Monday.
First let me say that the defensive intensity that the Cats displayed tonight is a great example of the tremendous coaching job that Calipari has done this year.
Yes, he's a great recruiter, but as the TV commentators pointed out, there comes a point where you have to be able to coach the guys you bring in. Incredible defensive efforts aren't going to get you on Sportscenter or guarantee you a spot on an NBA roster. The fact that Calipari has gotten this group of studs to buy into hard work on the defensive end shows both to his smart coaching ablity and also to the passion of this team. I was pleased.
Some more game notes:
-The first half clinic that they put on showed why Kentucky will deserve its number one ranking come Monday
. The Cats scored on their first 4 possessions, blazing out to a 10-0 lead. Cousins had a monster first half, with 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 missing teeth. Stevenson also got some quality minutes on his birthday, with 4 points in the first half.
-With such a monster lead at the half, the Cats only needed a solid 2nd half to wrap up their 19th straight win and they did just that. Despite Arkansas' 18-3 second half run, the wildcats stayed poised defensively and, unlike the last few games, never let the game get within Arkansas' reach. That alone should make a lot of the Big Blue Nation very happy.
-Bledsoe didn't put up huge numbers but defensively he shut down Rotnei Clark
, holding him to just 13 points for the game. Clarke was a guy that had been talked about all week as having a chance to showcase Kentucky's 3-point defensive weakness but with Bledsoe's incredible hustle, neither he nor the Razorback offensive ever really got going. Clark was just 2-9 from behind the arc and the team as a whole shot just over 18% for the game. After the game, Bledsoe had this to say about the effort:
"We played all 40 minutes of the game today. We did not let fatigue kick in and get us down. Usually we have had to stop and catch our breath but we just kept playing. We went hard every drill in practice this week and it seems to have carried over in to the game."
-Miller had a career high 18 points tonight, shooting 7-9 from the field and 67% from the three point line. I think it's safe to say that his 5th starter job is secure
. After the game he had this to say about his scoring:
"I think it makes it easier on John (Wall) and Eric (Bledsoe) and the rest of the team. It takes a lot of pressure off of them because usually they are getting double teamed. I just try to come out and be aggressive from the start. Most of the time my shots were open because there was a lot of pressure on John and them, so I was just trying to step out and make them. I wasn't trying to hesitate I was just being aggressive from the start."
-Deandre Liggins got a much-needed confidence boost tonight with 12 quality minutes
coming off the bench due to his increased effort and intensity. After the game, Calipari had this to say about him:
"What I liked is our bench. I had a good idea what those first five or at least those first four would do, it's those next five that make us from being good to really good and we just have to continue to build the bench. I love that Josh (Harrelson) in and John Hood came in, in the end and they looked terrific. DeAndre (Liggins) diving on the floor changed the complexion of the game on that play. It kept the run alive, and I'm just trying to get the others guys to say `what if we have 12 guys diving and doing those kinds of things."
Some more post game comments via UKAthletics.com
Calipari on the win streak:
"The issue that I've had in the past where my teams have started off on win streaks like this and become number one in the country is they were all veteran teams. They had been there. They had been to Elite Eights the year before. This team was an NIT team. I'm playing with a bunch of children, but they're very good children. But they're young and all of this is new. That's why I'm trying to raise the bar and drag them along. We have a good team. "
Gotta love his honesty.
Calipari on the next few days of practice:
"We go into a game Tuesday where tomorrow would usually be an off day, but we're going to walk through. We're going to give them off Wednesday after the South Carolina game, so we'll walk through. We're not going to practice but we're going to walk through and probably do something at my house. Get them all together. They've been a great team right now. They look after each other. They cover for each other. They're their brother's keeper. They look after each other on the court. They do it off the court, and we have a good group."
Courtney Fortson on knocking Boogie's teeth out:
"Yeah that was early in the game. It was the first layup I took and my elbow got him inadvertently. I told him later [in the game] I didn't mean to and it was all just fun and games."
Yes, Courtney, until someone bigger than you gets hurt. Matt will be by later for his postgame reactions so keep it here folks and enjoy the win.