With day two all wrapped up there was much to talk about from the Hawaiian Islands. The two semi-final games consisted of four teams that need no introduction. Three traditional powers and one team that has been raising it’s stock over the past couple of seasons. The first semi-final game consisted of two coaches that are not afraid of the spotlight.
Jim Calhoun and Tom Izzo have made winning a habit since the moment they stepped on to their respective campuses. If you were expecting an epic battle to the end, you got just that. Connecticut and Michigan State squared off in the early game with a lot of attention focused around the point guard play.
Kalin Lucas of Michigan State was coming off a stellar 28 point performance versus Chaminade and Kemba Walker for Connecticut was coming off an even better performance. He lifted the Huskies over Wichita State with an amazing second half performance and ended up scoring 31 points.
The game was fairly consistent throughout its entirety. At halftime the game was tied at 34 a piece and Kemba Walker was stealing the show with his flashy play. Draymond Green was Michigan State’s most productive player by far.
The game came down to the wire with Connecticut coming out on top 70-67. Late second free throws sealed the deal for the Huskies who were given much production by Kemba Walker and Alex Oriakhi. Walker finished the game with 10-19 shooting and 30 points.
Oriakhi was the major reason why UConn finished on top. The Spartans try to beat you up in the paint and gradually take you outside. Oriakhi was having none of that, finishing the game with 17 boards nine of which were offensive. He was a force in the paint and also chipped in 15 points to lead the Huskies over the Spartans.
Kalin Lucas was kept in check most of the night by Kemba Walker and only posted 10 points and turned the ball over 5 times. Walker out played Lucas and that was the main reason Connecticut kept close all game and eventually stuck the dagger in the Spartans.
The second game of the night was a match-up that most were looking forward too. The #11 Washington Huskies went up against the #9 Kentucky Wildcats. A young Wildcat team was sure to be tested early and often.
Early on in the game Kentucky started off hot like they did the night before against Oklahoma. The Wildcats came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. It was a night of the freshman for Kentucky. Both Jones and Knight looked seasoned players on the floor.
It is hard to dictate who was more impressive. Knight scored 24 and was 10-17 shooting from the field. He was electric off the dribble and at times made Abdul Gaddy and Isaiah Thomas look absolutely pathetic on defense. The one downfall to Knight’s game tonight was the turnover margin.
Knight has been very good about turnovers all season so far and has taken care off the ball very well. Tonight he had trouble maintaining control. He finished the night with eight turnovers. It’s expected that point guards will turn the ball over because they take the most risks with their passing but what doesn’t add up is he ended with eight turnovers and no assists.
Jones was the other standout player tonight finishing with a double-double for the second night in a row. Jones may be the best freshmen in college basketball. You have opposition from Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes but Terrence Jones’ numbers blow both of theirs out of the water.
Jones was spectacular on many levels tonight. He provided Kentucky with 16 points of offense and took care of the rebounding with 17 boards. The threat coming into the game was Washington’s superior ability to get on the glass and clean things up. Jones took care of that and along with teammates was able to get the Huskies big man, Matthew Bryan, to foul out.
The ‘Cats have a lot of work to do. A weakness that needs to be addressed is the ball movement. It’s hard to knock a team that is 4-0 on the season so far but Kentucky is ranked 123 in the nation in assists per game. They finished the game tonight with only 7 total assists.
In big games the number of assists will need to improve dramatically to give Kentucky a shot. They need to be able to create baskets for one another against good defenses. That is the only thing missing from a team that has the potential to be one of the best in the country.
The Wildcats after their win tonight get ready for their rematch from last year against the Connecticut Huskies. The Huskies are coming off a very big win versus #2 Michigan State. Granted Tom Izzo and his teams are usually slow starters and by March they will be ready to go but Connecticut was the better team on the floor for 40 minutes tonight.
You would think Kemba Walker is going to prove to be problems for Brandon Knight but Knight is quick enough to hang with Walker throughout the game and even if he isn’t John Calipari has enough guards on the bench to give him a breather.
The person that should worry the ‘Cats is the 6’9″ forward Alex Oriakhi. He is a big and physical presence under the hoop for the Huskies. The Wildcats don’t really have a match-up for him and he could prove to be a mismatch all night long. Calipari will most likely throw double teams at him all night like he did with Matthew Bryan but Oriakhi is much better around the hoop.
Expect to see a lot of Josh Harrelson and Eloy Vargas in the championship and it would be a perfect time to see one of them step up and prove their presence in the key. If Kentucky can find a consistent post presence they become even more dangerous then they already are.
Expect the freshmen to come at Connecticut all night as they did last season. Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones without a doubt will put on a performance you will enjoy. When you talk about the weakness of defending the paint that Kentucky has you also have to take into account who has a swing man that is good enough defensively to guard the kid out of Portland, Oregon. Look for Jones to have another double-double performance and leave Jim Calhoun in shock and awe.