Cats survive slow start to pull away from Long Beach, 86-73

Hunter Campbellover 11 years

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cuzdunk11Luster/C-J The Cats let the hangover from UK2K extend into the second half, but managed to pull away from a game Long Beach State team and notch win 2,001 before those sleigh bells started ringing to take the boys away for the holiday. The final was 86-73, but the game was much closer than that on a day where Kentucky played much of the first half without the big three of Wall, Patterson and Boogie, and all of the first half seemingly without energy to match that of the 49ers. However, with the return of the big three in the second half, our talent eventually won out as the 49ers faded down the stretch. A few points from the game: --Pretty much everyone could foresee the team coming out flat today, what with their bags already packed for Christmas break, the early tip time and the emotion of Monday night's win. Still, Coach Calipari seemed none too pleased with the first half effort, as Usain Bolt couldn't have made it to the locker room any faster than Cal did at halftime. While I'd like to think that Coach was just excited about checking to see if Santa ate the cookies and milk he left out for him, I would imagine that the locker room speech was a little less Santa and a little more Scrooge. --In analysis you'll only get from KSR, this team looks a lot different when Wall, Boogie and Patterson are all on the bench. Like, not as good. However, it's a blessing in disguise, as learning to play in those situations will be key as we approach conference play and we'll be better prepared for the adversity should we face it in our march through March. --The defensive effort was decent if unspectacular. There were open threes in the first half, but eight blocks is our season average and protecting the rim is something this team does extremely well, even when protecting the perimeter is not. The Cats forced only 12 turnovers, but eight were in the second half and we turned those into nine points. We also won the rebounding battle 45-38, although that may be a little misleading, as during one stretch late in the second half Cousins and Patterson missed, according to Brett Dawson's twitter (@wildcats), "approximately 43 attempts under the basket" in one possession. When this team struggles, rebounding can be a very telling stat, and the slim rebound margin in comparison with the way the Cats had dominated the glass recently points directly to a team that was missing a little pep in their step. --Still, DeMarcus Cousins had one of the most impressive statlines I've ever seen: 15 points, 10 rebounds, 4 fouls, in 13 minutes. He had time to get a double double, almost foul out, and get his giftwrapping done on the sideline while he sat. He is truly amazing. Patterson also added his 476th career double-double, tallying 15 and 11, but no giftwrapping. --The team as a whole was a little quick with the three point trigger, as our recently reliable outside shooting was just under 32% at 6-for-19 for the day, falling well below our season average of 42% coming into the game. Eric Bledsoe and Darnell Dodson were a combined 2-for-9, and Patterson missed his only attempt. John Wall continues to impress, however, as he was 2-for-3 and his stroke on open threes is as pure as Tim Tebow's report from the health clinic. Wall also connected on all seven of his free-throw attempts and led the team with 19 points. --Solid minutes for Liggins and Jorts, as they were part of the 'oh sh*t' rotation after the big three sat down. Liggins is coming along nicely and his development, particularly on defense, will be big as the season progresses. If he can be a Ramon Harris clone on defense and on the glass, this team will never be without a stopper and Liggins' offensive skill set gives us plenty of options when he's in the game. --If Mark Krebs doesn't shoot a three soon, I'm gonna be pretty peeved. This afternoon's performance wasn't quite as impressive as Monday's milestone win, but on a weird day like today, getting out with a win against a solid team is all you can ask. The fact that we beat a good team comfortably with far less than our best effort is encouraging, and the Cats should return from the Christmas break with renewed energy for the rest of the non-conference. After all, the dirty birds are but a week and a half away, and a performance like today's could lead to a win by less than 100 against the evil Cards, which would be borderline unacceptable. (I'm kidding. Anything over 75 is fine) Altogether a good day for the Cats as we continue our undefeated ways. Someone will be around with something very soon, we promise. Go Cats and Happy Holidays.

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2021-09-16