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Boston University Terriers 57 @ Kentucky Wildcats, 91: Postmortem

Kentucky
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Josh Harrellson was a force around the basket against the Boston U. Terriers.

Andy Lyons – Getty Images

Josh Harrellson was a force around the basket against the Boston U. Terriers.

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Now that was much better, wasn’t it?

Congratulations to the Boston U. Terriers for coming in and playing hard against a Kentucky Wildcats team that simply outgunned them tonight.  Boston U. was down a major contributor tonight, but they did all they could and gave Kentucky all they could have wanted in the first half.  But UK came out on fire in the second half and put the game away with almost 11 minutes remaining in the contest.

What was interesting about this game was the contrast between the first and second half.  In the first half, it looked like all my worries in the open game thread were coming true — Knight was having trouble figuring out when to score and when to pass, they Wildcats were giving up scoring opportunities on the dribble drive in favor of the kick, and the defense was struggling to communicate again.

But then came the second half.

In the second half, the Wildcats went berserk on defense, creating 8 turnovers and scoring 12 points off those turnovers, versus 3 in the first half.  One of Kentucky’s weaknesses all year long has been a failure to create turnovers on defense, and that seems way more than passing strange.  This team is quicker, more athletic, and just plain more capable defensively than most teams they play. 

The problem is, they just haven’t figured out how to play defense well.  They are constantly out of position, constantly allowing themselves to be beaten and allowing the opponent to force help, and constantly taking plays off defensively.  Right now, Kentucky is 313th in the nation at forcing turnovers.  That’s one reason that offense is coming so hard.

Finally, at least for one half, we saw how the team performs when they create turnovers.  Kentucky scored 51 points in the second half and shot 63% from the field.  You do that, and I’d bet the farm you win every game.  But the turnovers accounted for 24% of those points.  Add that to the paltry 7-point lead that UK had going into the half with only 3 points off TO’s, and you can see that’s most of the difference.

Comments and observations:

  • Josh Harrellson.  I honestly tried hard to find someone, anyone, who had a better game.  I could not.  Game ball.  Harrellson missed one shot all night, and had a double-double, 12/11.  Best game of his career.  Threw in 1 turnover for good measure.
  • Brandon Knight — He had a good shooting game and a decent passing game, but he still hasn’t figured it out yet.  The good news is, scoring like he did makes up for a lot of mistakes.
  • Terrence Jones — Does he keep on impressing, or what?  If it’s not getting rebounds or hitting amazing floaters, it’s making threes and leading the break.  What a versatile player.  His emotion seemed a bit subdued tonight, though, but not enough to keep him from earning another double-double.
  • Doron Lamb — Lamb was the spark in the first half.  He kind of faded into the background a bit in the second half, though.
  • Darius Miller continues to struggle, but he did some good things out there tonight.
  • Eloy Vargas just couldn’t seem to do what he needed to do.  He’s coming along, though.
  • DeAndre Liggins just keeps leading this team in floor burns, scrapes, and bruises.  He is like former Duke guard Steve Wojciechowski, only with actual talent and athletic ability.  And unlike  Wojciechowski, I really love his attitude — he is absolutely a Spartan out there.  He never gets mad, never gets chippy, never reacts wildly, he just plays basketball.  Get hit in the junk by an elbow?  No problem, just give him a minute.  Liggins is a warrior in the best possible way.  I wish UK had five more of him.
  • Coach Cal — How hard is it to coach after you just lost your mother?  I have no idea, but he was at his best tonight in every way.
  • Jon Hood played well tonight in limited minutes.  He is getting closer to being a real contributor.

The second half of this game got me more excited than ever about this team’s potential.  Whatever Calipari said to motivate them, he needs to bottle it and file patent papers right away, because the difference between the first half and the second are the difference between a second-round exit and a Final Four run.

Go, ‘Cats!


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Big Blue Linkapalooza: Boston Terriers Edition

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Desire.

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Wade Payne – AP

Desire.

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After a rough five days in the Bluegrass, it’s time to return to battle again tonight. 

As Wildcat fans continue to bemoan our 26th straight loss to Tennessee Volunteers in football (we don’t dare call them a rival), and an embarrassing blowout by the Connecticut Huskies in Maui, the Boston U. Terriers invade Rupp Arena tonight in hopes of dealing this young Kentucky team another setback.

Today’s links:


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Cal to centers: defend pick-and-roll or sit

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari issued a challenge to centers Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas: defend the pick-and-roll play properly or sit on the bench.

In talking to reporters before Tuesday morning’s shootaround, Calipari again noted how well — and often — Oklahoma ran pick-and-roll plays against Kentucky on Monday. A big man picked for a guard, and then rolled to the basket.

Calipari repeated replaced Harrellson and Vargas — and vice versa — against Oklahoma in search of better defense.

“Do we go small?” Calipari said of the possible options.

It seemed clear the UK coach sees good defense by the centers as the best option.

“If you can’t help us on the pick-and-roll, you can’t be on the floor,” Calipari said. “It’s not that hard.”

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Donovan never saw ‘true’ Vargas

Kentucky
Content provided by Kentucky Wildcat sports beat.

Kentucky’s Eloy Vargas is in his second stint as a Southeastern Conference basketball player,…

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Vargas to play in UK’s opener

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

Junior big man Eloy Vargas will play in Kentucky’s opening game on Friday, Coach John Calipari said on Thursday.

The death of his father on Tuesday cast doubt on Vargas’s availability against East Tennessee State. But UK and Vargas have been wrestling with visa issues, meaning the player will be available in the opener.

Vargas, a native of Dominican Republic, is being counted on to help fill the void with freshman Enes Kanter facing the possibility of permanent ineligibility.

UK’s other “bigs” are senior Josh Harrellson and freshman Terrence Jones.

“He’ll probably go home this weekend,” Calipari said of Vargas.

But if the visa issues are not resolved, Vargas may not be with his family in this time of grief, the UK coach said.

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Kentucky basketball player Eloy Vargas’ father dies in Dominican Republic

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Kentucky basketball player Eloy Vargas’ father dies in Dominican Republic

Very bad news for Wildcat fans. Our prayers go out to Eloy and his family.


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Video: Calipari’s comments after destroying Dillard

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Here are first couple of minutes from John Calipari’s post-game presser after Kentucky’s 122-54 destruction of overmatched Dillard.

The head coach said he was happy with DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller, and Terrence Jones was “off the charts.” He said Brandon Knight is Brandon Knight, but Eloy Vargas and Doron Lamb have got to “find it.” He said the team isn’t deep enough to have sub-par efforts from two important players.

Calipari also complimented Jon Hood’s game, talked about the 28 assists, and said that the team looked good because it put the ball in the basket. He said practice has been very physical this week, and that the team has to treat every loose ball like, “I have got to get this ball.”

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Dillard Bleu Devils @ Kentucky Wildcats: Open Game Thread

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana is the home of the Bleu Devils (as in Bleu Cheese, or “Sacré bleu!”), who travel north to chilly Lexington and Rupp Arena tonight for a tilt with the Kentucky Wildcats.  As you no doubt know by now, former Wildcat Dale Brown, from nearby Pascagoula Mississippi, is in his third season has head basketball coach at DU.

Game particulars as follows, courtesy of UKAthletics.com:

Dillard @ Kentucky
Game Notes Kentucky Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Fri., Nov. 5, 7:00 p.m. ET
Coverage TV: FS South/BBSN
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio
Text Updates
Location Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.

This is the final game of the exhibition season for Kentucky, and should be an interesting test.  The Bleu Devils play Dale Brown’s riff on the fast-paced, pressing style of the 1993 Kentucky Wildcats that he played when he was at his best.  It is a style sure to test the ballhandling of these young Wildcats, and since “toughness” has been the watchword around here since the Wildcats were out-gritted by Pikeville earlier in the week, we’ll see if John Calipari’s less tolerant approach to practice will pay dividends early.

Some of the things I’ll be watching for tonight:

  • Brandon Knight doing a better job of getting his teammates involved, and turn the ball over less;
  • Terrance Jones getting on the boards, and being more physical and less grabby;
  • Darius Miller being more assertive, more consistently;
  • Doron Lamb looking to get the ball to open teammates, and attacking the rim;
  • DeAndre Liggins keeping the intensity high all the time, not just after Calipari calls him out;
  • Eloy Vargas just playing better, and acting like he’s 6’10″ instead of 6’5″.
  • Josh Harrellson getting better position inside, and finishing plays;
  • Jon Hood and Stacey Poole stepping up and acting like they want to get some minutes;
  • Gang rebounding;
  • The whole team shooting the basketball better.

The ‘Cats didn’t distinguish themselves in their first game.  Now is the time for them to make up for it with a solid performance in their second and final exhibition outing.  Next Friday, the season begins officially, and Kentucky needs to place themselves on a trajectory of improvement that can be sustained, and get them where they need to be before the really big games come along.

Go, ‘Cats!


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Kentucky Basketball: Blue/White Game Postmortem

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Brandon Knight impressed once more.  I think it is likely to become a habit with him.

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James Crisp – AP

Brandon Knight impressed once more. I think it is likely to become a habit with him.

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A postmortem after a scrimmage?  Well, why not?  This is Kentucky, n’est ce pas?

It was good to see a fully healthy Terrance Jones, and what a factor he can be.  His arms are obscenely long, and he handles the ball like a young Magic Johnson.  The kid has size, he runs the floor, he is a difference-maker.

Brandon Knight was exactly what he has been for the last three years — terrific.  He was great before he came to Kentucky, and he continues to get better and better.  Tonight, he was terrific again, particularly from the outside, but he was almost equally amazing going to the rim.

More B/W game observations:

  • The game lacked cohesion and flow.  Not really surprising at this point.
  • Josh Harrellson had over 20 rebounds.  Wouldn’t it be nice if he could do that against SEC competition?
  • Darius Miller did less than I expected, but he shot the ball pretty well.
  • Free throw shooting stank, but I think that was a function of the pace, conditioning, and lack of subs.  It wasn’t all that, there are some form issues, but I am not convinced that is what we will see all year.
  • I loved the pace.  I’m not so sure I loved the sets, but I did see a number of pick and rolls.
  • DeAndre Liggins is just a defensive monster.  He has crazy long arms and an intensity that is currently unequaled.  If his offense ever catches up, look out.
  • The ballhandling was surprisingly good, overall.  It got sloppy in the second half, but I think fatigue was the major factor.
  • Doron Lamb is just amazing.  He doesn’t look like he’s that good, and then he’ll amaze you.  He plays the game in a mesmerizing way, he doesn’t look fast until he lays the ball in and his defender is two steps behind.
  • Eloy Vargas needs work.  All JUCOs seem to need work.
  • Jon Hood really had some good moments.  And some bad ones.  But I liked the way he improved as the game went on.
  • Stacey Poole is going to take a while to become effective.  He is just a cut below these guys at the moment.
  • Jarrod Polson is a really sound player.  I think he will play some this year.
  • Overall, I saw what I expected, but I am really encouraged by how good the defense was at times.  Yes, the scrimmage had a lot of ragged and head-shaking moments, but no more so than normal.  This is a talented group of players top to bottom, and every single player is capable of contributing something in games this year.

    Overall, I liked what I saw.  There is work to be done, but the skill is maybe better even than last year.  The physical ability maybe not so much, but the skill is surprisingly high.


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