Kentucky rebounded nicely today from their historic loss to Vanderbilt by overcoming a halftime deficit and Anthony Randolph's audition for "NBA Jam" (he's heating up). Joe Crawford led the Cats with 21 points and seemed to hit big shot after big shot in the second half to keep the Cats just ahead of the rejuvenated Tigers and Jodie Meeks supplied an important six first half points in his first meaningful action in weeks.
In the first half, LSU kept a consistent 4-8 point lead over Kentucky throughout by converting Kentucky turnovers into fast break points and getting high percentage shots in the lane. Patrick Patterson also got into early foul trouble and was limited to 13 minutes in the first half in an effort to keep from getting foul number 3. Despite this, Kentucky found itself down only 2 thanks to a Jodie Meeks three-pointer with under a minutes left in the half.
The Cats came out of the locker room with a newfound intensity and clamped down on the Tigers in the half court. LSU managed to stay in the game on putback after putback by Anthony Randolph, et. al and thanks to some questionable Ramel Bradley decisions. Kentucky began the second half with a 13-4 run with Joe Crawford contributing seven of those points. Down the stretch, the Cats could only expand the lead to a consistent 3-5 points, and with under a minute the Tigers cut the lead to one and had the ball. After a poorly chosen three point attempt by Marcus Thornton, Kentucky rebounded and Derrick Jasper was fouled. This put Kentucky in the bonus and this put Jasper and his un-Calvin Murphy-like reputation on the free throw line for the 1 and 1. Jasper's first shot hit the back of the rim, bounced highly, landed again on the back of the rim, bounced back and forth around the cylinder before finally, mercifully, falling through the basket. Jasper then calmly sank the second free throw and the Cats had a three point lead. Now we all know that conventionally wisdom states that when down three you want your 6'11 center taking a contested 25-footer for the tie and LSU held true to form as Chris Johnson barely drew iron on his attempt. On the rebound, and in a gutty performance, Ramel Bradley out-wanted the LSU squad for the basketball and was fouled while on the deck. He then proceeded to knock down free throws to give the victory to the Cats.
-Player of the game was, without a doubt, Joe Crawford. After a non-spectacular first half, Joe responded with 11 points in the first eight minutes of the second half taking the Cats from down a consistent 4 points, to up a consistent 4 points. Joe used his entire arsenal in the second half, hitting threes, muscling the ball in around the rim, hitting contested runners, and using the glass from < 10 feet. His biggest basket came with just under 3 minutes remaining and the Cats up 2 when Joe received the ball just off of the low block, dribbled toward the free throw line and hit a high-arching bank shot over two defenders while falling away. It was one of those shots that breaks the spirit of the other team and gave the Cats a 4 point advantage. Joe was just as impressive in his post-game interview as he refused any praise for himself and gave the credit for his scoring to Ramel Bradley's ability to find him when he was open. He then deflected a question about "carrying a team on his shoulders" by disagreeing and saying that today's victory was a true team effort. Crawf' has been much maligned throughout his four years as a Wildcat, but it's impossible not to see how he has matured this year. Congrats, Joe.
-My expert analysis finds that Anthony Randolph is pretty good. 24 and 14 is a solid game.
-As mentioned before, Ramel made several questionable decisions that had to leave Cat fans (this one included) throwing things and yelling obscenities at the television. However, no sooner than Ramel makes a mistake that makes you want to gnaw off your pinky finger does he go diving on the floor for a crucial loose ball and then hits four consecutive free throws that ice the game.
-Runner-up player of the game? How about Jared Carter? Did anyone else on either team score twice as many points as minutes played? (2 vs. 1)
-When did Raycom Sports take the "World Series on Fox" approach of showing some SEC celebrity during every cutaway? "And now we see the stars of "Malcolm In the Middle" taking in Game 4 of the World Series. You can catch their hilarious antics every Sunday, right here on Fox!".
-Well, I'm sure God loves Mark Coury. Honestly though, he plays his heart out and I have all the respect in the world for him. But did anyone think that when he got the ball in the lane there was any chance it wasn't going to be blocked and blocked hard?
-Nice to see Jodie back and providing some production in the first half with Patterson on the bench. Meeks hit two big three to keep the Cats close and allow Gillispie to keep Patterson on the bench. Had the Cats fallen behind by 8 or more, you can guarantee PPat would have been back in the game and would have been at risk for foul number three. Meeks didn't play much in the second half (hopefully due to fatigue and not injury) but he did look rusty on his first few shots. I'm certain it was just rust and that he will be back in the flow within another week. He still doesn't quite have the cutting ability that we saw last year and when he is able to add this back to his game, he will be able to provide another consistent scoring threat to the Big 3.
-I hate to be skeptical, but I don't think Joe Dean, Jr. coined the phrase, "String Music".
-Who else votes for Butch Pierre to go ahead and just shave his head?
-This was a big win (as I guess they all are now) for the Cats as it hopefully gets the Vanderbilt aftertaste out of their mouths in time for an important stretch of games against quality opponents. Next up--Georgia at home Tuesday night. Before we think ahead, let's savor this one for a little bit. Go Cats.