If you watched the first few minutes of the game and decided to change the channel, you would have probably thought Kentucky blew the doors off of Georgia and sent the Bulldogs home with their tails between their legs. You would have been wrong. Georgia battled back from an early 11-point deficit and played the Cats toe-to-toe for the rest of the game before falling, 76-68.
It was no doubt a tough contest, but the young guys got their first taste of the way other SEC teams approach games with Kentucky, showed poise down the stretch and managed to win in the process of maturing, which is always a positive. All in all, a good way to open the conference slate.
A few notes:
--Great game for Boogie. He started out getting dunked on ridiculously hard, but answered immediately with a basket and a smile on the other end and didn't let it affect his overall performance. He still got in first-half foul trouble, which eventually needs to end, but that didn't stop him from posting a respectable, if human, 16 and 7 in 25 minutes. It was his play down the stretch, though, that sealed the deal for the Cats
. His energy on defense when the team needed someone to step up and his late free throws were what kept Georgia from being able to have a real shot late in the game. And he did most of the damage without his headband. Dude's a monster.
--There was a period not too long ago where our three-point shooting wasn't the concern everyone expected it to be. No longer, apparently. Over the last two games the Cats are an abysmal 4-for-28 from beyond the arc.
Much of the poor shooting comes from playing against a zone defense for large portions of both games, leading to more three-point jacks than quality shots out of the offense. Whatever the reason, we must shoot it at a better clip to have a chance at cutting any nets down. This recent cold streak is probably some kind of yin-and-yangish balancing act to account for the hot start to the season, so hopefully we can expect better results going forward.
--I thought the officiating was less than impressive...shoddy at best.
--Good day for DeAndre Liggins, who made a handful of plays on defense and got a couple of key buckets. The '3' spot continues to be handled by committee
, as Liggins played 14 minutes with 6 points, Darius Miller played 15 minutes with 5 points, and Ramon Harris and Darnell Dodson played 10 and 11 scoreless minutes, respectively. Dodson and Miller need to help fill the void of outside shooting better, but as long as all four are effective defenders then the team isn't hurt too much by a lack of scoring from the wing, which is good, because they're not getting much scoring from the wing.
--When this team is aggressive on defense it is at its best
. When we pressed hard and guarded aggressively in the halfcourt we forced numerous turnovers, 26 total, but the times we allowed Georgia to execute their offense without bothering them were the times they made their runs. Still, when everyone is playing with maximum effort, this group is scary defensively.
--Patrick Patterson is in the right place all the time.
--Eric Bledsoe looks like he has an extra hop to his step lately, presumably due to his ankle being healthier. The Cats are unbelievably fast with both Wall and Bledsoe in freight train mode
, although Bledsoe's decision making has to get better and he and Wall need to shoot much better than today's combined 33% if there are plans for Indianapolis in the future. Their collective penchant for badassedness tends to suggest they will.
--Good to see Ashley Judd in the house. She should visit me
Rupp more often.
And a few post-game quotes:
on DeAndre Liggins:
"Who fought? You tell me who went in and fought? DeAndre Liggins. It is not brain surgery. We all saw how he can play. Now the question is, do I start him? Should he be a starter? The tentativeness, the softness, the `I got screened I'm sorry', it is too late now. We are in the middle of the season and you have to ball. You have to go out there and fight and compete and if you are not, I am going to play somebody else. I have not changed since I got in the seat. We got some guys fighting it a little bit, `I would try ig you give me the ball more.' It isn't about that. It is about battling. DeAndre was probably the difference in the game. If I had to play pother people we probably wouldn't have enough to win. One guy was breaking down and they were coming up with balls. He tied up a ball for a jump ball and made that layup when we were dying. He did some really good things, I was proud of him too, really proud of him."
On his play down the stretch:
"Coach [Calipari] has told me to come to practice and compete and everything else will take care of itself. I knew my opportunity would come I just had to wait. I have practiced well. You just have to be patient and wait your turn. When my name was called I came in and helped my team."
On his confidence growing:
"It helped my confidence a lot. I just have to stay humble and get better in practice. Like Coach [Calipari] always warns I cannot drink the poison. I feel good I just have to continue this on a daily basis."
On worrying if the winning streak would end today
"I was never worried, not one second. I knew we had the best team with the most fight and the will to win. No one wants to lose so everyone pushes and everyone battles. Even when Georgia came back and had their run I still had confidence in my teammates."
[quotes via UkAthletics
Altogether a good day for the Cats in gutting out a win against a team that gave nothing less than their best shot. Georgia was probably better than everyone (including me) gave them credit for, but Kentucky was game and got a win despite not playing their best basketball
. That is the hallmark of a great team, and there's no doubt we're growing toward becoming one of those. However ugly the last couple of games may have been, 16-0 feels sweet just the same.
BTI will be your daddy for Sunday, so be nice and he might not yell at you.
Stay tuned for the excitement as I'm sure there will be CJ Leslie tidbits, podcast rumblings and all the Kentucky sports news you can handle in the most ridiculous manner possible. Until then...