I don’t know where to start for this game so I’ll just take off with my least important and most superfluous point.
The sky-cam that ESPN tried to implement for this game had to have been one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever seen from the worldwide leader. It was a terrible angle and made the action difficultly annoying to follow. I swear that must have been some dumb idea to mess with UK fans because the general consensus I gathered from twitter was that it was universally hated. You have to admire the unified voice of the Big Blue Nation, though. After they used it every possession in the beginning, its use slowly began to dwindle and eventually it became totally unused by the end of the first half. Curiously, they didn’t use it at all in the Ohio State-Michigan State game. I like to believe that there’s a special place in hell for people who come up with ideas like the ESPN sky-cam.
Alright, I feel better now. Let’s get to the actual game.
The sad thing about this game was that if you had watched any of our games this season but especially the South Carolina and Georgia home games, then you could have predicted that the wheels would eventually fall off after we got that 13-point second half lead. It’s the most pressing recurring problem that this team has. When we’re on the road we keep it close ,or stage a comeback to get it close, before crumbling in the final minutes. At home, we get a comfortable lead and then squander it with bad offensive possessions, turnovers and lazy defense. Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb shouldn’t miss free throws in crunch time, but they did today. This could have been a huge turning point for our young team, but they ended up following the script that we’ve all grown used to this season. I guess one positive is that we didn’t collapse enough that they could take it to overtime like both games last year. I despise the stress of overtime games.
The thing that kept this game closer than it should have been was the play of Renardo Sidney. Sidney is a very fat man and he was easily winded. When he was tired he was essentially a zombie on offense and simply non-existent on defense. Jimmy Dykes used Sidney’s laziness as his impromptu talking point for the game. He tore into Sidney because Sidney deserved it. He played lazy. Josh Harrellson exploited his inability to get back on defense multiple times and scored some very easy points. The contrasting play of Josh and Renardo can be easily summed up as the difference between a good coach and a bad coach.
John Calipari is a good coach. Rick Stansbury is a bad coach. When Josh tweeted something that irked his coach, he was punished for it. He was run until he learned his lesson and in the process trimmed his frame down and built up his in-game endurance. When Sidney fought with a teammate and then retweeted a tweet that got Ravern Johnson suspended for two games, his punishment wasn’t nearly as strict. Josh learned from his mistake and got better. Sidney is adamantly trying to stay the same as his days as a high school All-American.
I got most of my talking points out before the jump so I’ll just hit you with a few final points:
- Doron Lamb rebounded from two sub-par games to score 20 points in his starting role on 7-8 shooting, 3-3 from the three-point line and 3-4 from the line. Pretty good.
- Darius Miller didn’t start because of his groin injury but played very well in his minutes. He had 13 points and played fantastic defense throughout. This would have probably been a loss without him.
- Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones were both fantastic on offense. However, Jones made some dumb fouls, I mean sky-cam dumb, and that affected how he could defend down the stretch. Knight got worked by Dee Bost on multiple occasions. Bost gave him a harsh ‘Welcome to the SEC, young man’ moment. Brandon’s half court shot attempt at the end of the first half to secure the three free throws was a veteran and intelligent play, though. Stansbury’s subsequent meltdown and technical were quite enjoyable as well.
- Unrelated, but I’d love to see a whine-off between Stansbury and Kevin Stallings from Vanderbilt.
- Dee Bost, Ravern Johnson and some guy named Jalen Steele were 12-19 from beyond the three-point line. After the Vandy game, my faith in our perimeter defense significantly waned but I still think that part of that display, tonight, was the big lights of Rupp. Steele went 5-7 and on the season was a 28% shooter. Take it how you will.
- DeAndre Liggins got two quick fouls and was basically invisible on offense. Understandable though considering the output from the freshmen, Darius and Josh.
- Eloy missed a point blank range two hand dunk and then fouled them on the ensuing defensive possession. Anyone think that he’s not the worst basketball player in the country?
Like I said before, this game could have been a turning point. Getting the win is fantastic but if that game is in Starkville, we probably lose. This team still has time. I believe that we’ll see the game where everything just starts to click very soon.