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James Crisp – AP
Something we did not see from Calipari on Monday night — a smile.
This game started out slow and then gradually built into a runaway freight train that drove straight over the Dillard University Bleu Devils.
Thanks and congratulations to the Bleu Devils for coming in and playing as hard as they could against the Kentucky Wildcats tonight. Dale Brown’s young charges ran into a very talented, determined, and, let’s face it, hot Kentucky team tonight. It was a lopsided game, but the score does nothing to change the effort and class of Dillard’s team. It just wasn’t their night.
For Kentucky, the foe may have been NAIA, but these Wildcats were out to make up for the egg they laid earlier in the week against the Pikeville Bears. And they did. They did it by rebounding better, by sharing the ball better, by shooting the ball better. They did it in all the ways that mattered, including getting on the floor after the basketball, getting loose balls, and getting the 50/50 balls. That’s how you play Division I college basketball. That’s the effort it takes.
Yes, these young Wildcats still made mistakes. They gave up way to easy on too many 3-point looks. They found themselves turning the ball over 14 times, a couple of times just surrendered by lack of thought and effort. Free throw shooting is still an issue. But nobody could look at these two games and think that the ‘Cats did not play a lot better tonight.
- Terrance Jones — game ball. Jones had a double-double in points and rebounds, and threw in six blocks, four assists and three steals against only one turnover for good measure. That’s an unbelievable line.
- Brandon Knight was great as always, and was much better at spreading the ball around. Brandon has to quit worrying about how many points he scores, and remember that point guards set up teammates for easy buckets. Brandon is an effortless scorer, but he has to let that take a back seat to good distribution most of the time.
- Josh Harrellson was really good the first half, just about average in the second. Seven total rebounds against Dillard is not going to strike fear in the hearts of SEC foes.
- Jon Hood was terrific, and if he can continue to make plays like he did tonight, his role on this team will only expand.
- Once again, Doron Lamb was not himself. He didn’t miss a shot, but he made a couple of silly offensive fouls and just didn’t get his defense anywhere near where it needs to be.
- Eloy Vargas is still a step slow and way too soft. He had a couple of moments, but he still has some conditioning and toughness issues. Two total rebounds for a 6’10″/250# guy against the tiny Dillard Bleu Devils? Not nearly good enough.
- Darius Miller played better, but not nearly as well as he did in Canada. Miller has got to be more aggressive as a scorer. But his defense was better, and his rebounding was solid.
- DeAndre Liggins brought terrific energy at times, but at other times seemed to play out of control. He had a team-high 4 turnovers against only 3 assists, but defensively he was the best player out there all night.
- Stacey Poole put his nose into the middle and got six big rebounds in only 8 minutes. That is some really good production from a guy his size. If he keeps up that kind of work on the little things, he will see more minutes.
- I loved the passing tonight. 28 assists is getting it done, and shooting 70% will beat anyone.
Terrance Jones reminded me why I was so high on him after watching him in the McDonald’s All-American game. He is such a tough matchup with his length, ballhandling, and ability to run the floor. All those things were on full display tonight, and he was much the best of all the young men.
I hope Darius Miller does not let himself disappear like he did last year. He had it on cruise control through most of the second half, and I would appreciate a more consistent effort from him. But it’s hard to really fault his production, I just know he is capable of more.
Brandon Knight is a completely different kind of threat than John Wall. Knight has such a complete game, it’s sometimes hard to recognize that he’s only a freshman — he just doesn’t play like one. Nobody plays harder, more often, than Brandon Knight.
Overall, the Wildcats tonight gave us back the hopes that some of us surrendered a bit of last game. This is the kind of drubbing you should deliver to an NAIA school if you are going to be a top 25 basketball team, and tonight, Kentucky looked every bit the part on causal inspection. I’m sure Coach Cal will look deeper and find plenty of hidden flaws, but overall, this was an effort to be proud of.