Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kentucky 75 - 65 Tennessee (No. 2,101)

The UK basketball season has been a disappointment so far, but even a season like this one can have its pleasures.  It is always fun to beat Tennessee -- in any sport, at any time.  And at least the Vols didn't play their usual slow-down game against us this time.

Still, the Wildcats continued to look extremely fragile.  Bruce Pearl, the former UT coach, said this week that UK's players are too big and slow to play good defense, and I have to say that makes as much sense as anything I've heard this year.  Against really poor teams -- such as Eastern Michigan -- UK's size makes it extremely difficult for the other team's smaller guys to get inside, and UK's defense looks very good.  But against BCS-quality opponents, the Cats have really struggled to prevent teams from getting good shots inside -- or from getting the rebound when those shots are missed.  Through three games, UK has the 9th-most efficient defense in SEC play -- mainly because they are 13th out of 14 in preventing offensive rebounds.

Thus, it was not surprising to see that an 8-6 Tennessee team was able to hang around with UK.  In fact the Vols were up 54-53 with 7:09 left in the game.  But then, for the first time all year against a BCS opponent, the Cats were able to pull away down the stretch.  Interestingly, they did this mostly thanks to points from their non-freshmen.  Kyle Wiltjer had several key baskets in the last few minutes and finished with 17 points.  Julius Mays finally hit some three-pointers (he was 2-3 from behind the arc), and chipped in 9 points.  The Cats also finished with 12 points from Ryan Harrow -- meaning that non-freshmen accounted for 38 of UK's 75 points.  I suspect that we may see more of this -- until Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin figure out how to adjust to playing against better athletes, the Cats are probably better off not relying on them in the last few minutes.

Meanwhile, the Cats have temporarily lost Willie Cauley-Stein, who had a procedure to deal with a knee issue and who will not play tonight against Auburn.  The Cats can't rebound with WCS, so they will likely struggle even more without him.

Tonight is the beginning of a huge stretch of games for Kentucky.  Four of their next five games are on the road:

1/19:  at Auburn
1/22:  at Alabama
1/29:  at Mississippi
2/2:  at Texas A & M

I always assume that the Cats will lose whenever they go to Tuscaloosa or Oxford, and they've already lost to A & M at home.  So unless they start playing much better pretty soon, they could be in a big hole.


  1. I've never seen a player hurdle a defender on an alley-oop dunk. Until just then.

  2. I went to check out the highlights posted by UKTV on youtube and of course the ref is standing in front of the camera on this play so I have no idea what happened.