Tru and I have extremely divergent views on UK's most recent loss, and I understand his viewpoint 100%.
I though, see something happening. No, not the end of the world:)
Frustration, because of unexpected results, can at times color the way we evaluate our team. Especially when the frustration has been a long time weight on ones brain.
I think that we can safely say a trend is developing. Vanderbilt, MSU, and Florida. UK versus those opponents has shown a marked increase in effort in all phases, a willingness to sacrifice, an understanding of Clydes system, and an mindset which will not allow them to give up.
Are they perfect, well not exactly. But they are beginning to show signs of BECOMING a decent team.
I felt playing Florida, in Gainesville, with Jasper and Meeks having not practiced more than 15 minutes over the last 2 weeks, could potentially be an embarrassment. This Gator team in young, no doubt, but they are very talented. Much more so than UK.
For this team, under these circumstances to compete, and play even with Florida for 40 minutes is astounding in my opinion. The environment alone is enough to intimidate many teams, but this team charged back. They did not fold, they did not concede.
What got UK back in the game? How about no turnovers in the final 7:58 of the game. That is an improvement of massive importance.
I suppose the next stat I have can be looked at in two different ways. How you feel about it probably determines whether you are a half-full glass, or a half-empty glass type of person.
UK lost the game in the final 3:42 of the first half and the first 5:50 of the second half. That's a total of 9:32, which is nearly 25% of the game minutes.
In the final 3:42 of the 1st Florida was 5-6 from the floor. The score went from 19-19 to 30-25 in that time.
In the first 5:50 of the 2nd half UK was 2-9 from the field. In this time the score went from 30-25 to 42-30.
UK was outscored 23-11 in those 9+ minutes.
Why? Defensively their rotation and perimeter defense was lacking. They weren't rotating well either outside, or in the paint. Why? I don't know that, I wish I did.
The other sin they committed in those 9+ minutes was falling in love with the 3. They took and missed entirely too many treys.
The other 36 minutes I thought they played pretty well.
They didn't shoot the ball as well as they normally do, but when you have Harris taking game changing 3's, what can one expect?--Insert sarcasm.
They hit their FT's, going 16-18.
They committed no turnovers in the overtime, (they committed no TO's in the final 12:58 of the game), but they did not force any either.
They hit some big shots and big free throws. Guys stepped up, and played within one blown call of winning. (not slamming the refs, just making an innocent observation)
I see improvement. It's the same refrain, yes I know. But just because the refrain is old, doesn't make it any less true. Just because they have lost two in a row, doesn't mean they aren't getting better. Both close games, both road games, both hard fought. Competing for the entire game, every possession.
I've had faith in Clyde and this team. Faith that they will improve. I saw no real signs of my faith being rewarded until one week ago today. Amidst all the injuries, rumors, defections, stubborness, bad luck, and losing, this team is seeming to learn. LEARNING WHAT CLYDE WANTS.
That is improvement.
The next step is executing what Clyde wants, in a more efficient manner. That's where we are now.
One way I use to gauge whether a team is improving is by looking back on the schedule, at the losses. I think, "If we played team-x today, would UK win?"
If one did that with this team, I feel it is fair to say that there are at least 3-4 games out of the 7 that they lost before last Saturday, that today would be wins.
Am I searching for positives. Maybe. But I do see improvements. No way 3 weeks ago does UK play UFA to OT. NO WAY. I think that is a legitimate positive. It's not a win, I know, but I think they're getting better. UK could play perfect, perfect basketball Tuesday against UT, and still lose. Healthy talent is what a coach must have to win. UK does not have healthy talent. That is strike one, two and three, all in one big swing. In UK's present situation, improvement may not always produce a victory. I know that is a foreign concept to UK fans, it is difficult for me anyway, but it's the only way to look at this team, and this season, in my view.
I thought Florida would win by 10-12 points. I was wrong about that, maybe I'm wrong about our chances against Tennessee. But nonetheless, I will be looking for continued improvement. Win or lose.
These guys are fighters and part of fighting is fighting smartly. UK is showing signs of embracing that philosophy. They're not there yet, but I see baby steps.(Insert "What About Bob?" sarcasm here)
I choose to believe. No, no I don't live in "The Peoples Temple".
A hearty thanks to Gary Williams and his Terps for stickin' it to Cryin' Roy and his Heels, in Chapel Hill, no less.
A loud and boisterous THANKS to the Seton Hall Pirates. Any team that beats UL, is my second favorite team. Especially if said team is an underdog. I love it when UL loses to an underdog.