It was not a pretty first half for the Wildcats but they were able to take care of business in Louisville in a packed Freedom Hall. Terrence Jones had the game high with 27 points and 17 boards en-route to his fifth double-double of the season. The story of the first half was Ben Hansbrough.
Younger brother of Tyler Hanbrough, came out firing on all cylinders. He looked pretty much unstoppable in the first half scoring 19 of Notre Dame’s 40 points. I don’t know if I could listen to Jimmy Dykes speak anymore after the first half.
Anytime Hansbrough touched the ball, all you heard was how his attitude reminded him so much of his brother. Ben Hansbrough, after putting in a Tyler Hansbrough like first half proceeded to come back out and score only two points in the second half. I think John Calipari had a little something to do with that performance.
Kentucky came out slow on the defensive end and looked a little asleep at times, standing flat footed and letting their men beat them off the dribble and grab boards over them. Calipari wasted two timeouts in the first ten minutes of the game to try and snap his team back into the game. Barring Terrence Jones backdown dunk in the post there were not many highlights from UK’s side.
The Second half was a much better performance. John Calipari seemed to light a fuse and the ‘Cats came out of the locker room and did not cool off till the end of the game. The dribble-drive seemed to be working much better and Kentucky started to create turnovers while limiting their own.
Terrence Jones went for 27 and 17 and that stat line is beginning to become repetitive which will make any Blue and White fan happy. He still is looking a little confused on the court which may be a scary thing for future opponents. I believe that Jones has another level that he is yet to reach and can make better basketball IQ plays.
He is not always smart with the ball and can force some shots and passes but I think that is a learning process. Freshmen make mistakes and Jones is no different. If Calipari can iron out all the kinks then he may end up having a very memorable season.
Brandon Knight also was his usual self. He scored 20 points and chipped in five assists. Knight is still struggling at being a true point guard. He is more of a scoring guard or what is known as a two guard. He has good ball handling skills but does not have the court awareness you expect from a point guard.
The court awareness is an intangible quality that Knight may never develop. If Knight does end up staying then playing him at the shooting guard next year with a true point guard like Marquis Teague coming in, the UK front-court would be very tough competition.
With that being said I would not trade either of these two freshmen for most people in the country. They accumulated over half of Kentucky’s points tonight and without them the Wildcats would not be half the team they are.
The Kentucky supporting cast was not very good tonight. Nobody other than Knight and Jones got out of single digits scoring and they only made seven shots combined. The contribution well need to pick up the past for Kentucky to be competitive. Everyone has an off night but without Knight and Jones it is realistic to think Kentucky would have lost tonight’s game.
Kentucky now looks ahead to a match-up with Indiana on Saturday at Rupp Arena. The Hoosiers have a lot of good and young talent and in many ways are similar to the Wildcats. Christian Watford could prove to be a problem for Kentucky but so far Terrence Jones has done a good job defending other elusive forwards. It should be a good one and hopefully Kentucky’s other three starters can get out of their funk.