Congratulations to the West Virginia Mountaineers for a hard fought game that Kentucky was fortunate to win.
I must confess, I did not think UK could pull this off. West Virginia looked like world beaters against an obviously inferior Iowa Hawkeyes team. Yet, that same Iowa team managed to pull out a last-second victory over what seemed to me as a clearly superior Kansas State team. Such is college basketball.
Kentucky came into this game with the clearly tougher road. Barely squeaking by the K-State Wildcats last night, the Kentucky version was obviously tired and energy-depleted, and it really showed in the first half , where the Mountaineers physically dominated Kentucky and took a 10-point lead into the locker room.
The first seven minutes of the second half were more of the same. then, at about the 13:00 mark with the 'Cats down ten, something happened. Kentucky sullenly caught a second wind, and the Mountaineers obviously hit a wall. UK began sending Huggin's charges back onto defense after repeated empty possessions. Not only that, but the Mountaineers began to foul UK over and over again, and it was that foul disparity that would eventually make the difference. WVU kept sending UK's best free-throw shooters to the line, and Kentucky made them.
I can't tell you how exciting it was to sit among so many of the Big Blue Faithful so far away from home. You have all heard that Kentucky travels well, but until you have experienced the camaraderie of a UK tournament on the road, you really have no understanding of the concept. It was life-changing for me, and both me and my wife have vowed to do it again as soon as practicable.
As far as the game went, here are my perceptions:
- Evidently, Liggins and Gillispie are back on the same page. Liggins was teriffic tonight, and a big reason why UK won, both offensively and defensively.
- Jodie Meeks, despite being obviously leg-weary and less than 100%, never gave up. In fact, at the end of the second half, he really shone through on defense.
- Josh Harrellson was, next to Jodie Meeks, probably the MVP of the tournament. Patrick Patterson had a good game tonight, but Harrellson was everywhere, and absolutely played as hard as any player I have seen all year.
- Michael Porter once again gave a good effort, but he is nowhere near as talented as Liggins, and that made all the difference.
- Perry Stevenson continues to play very passively except on defense. He had a number of emphatic blocks during this tournament, but did very little to help the team on offense.
- Ramon Harris played OK. He is definitely capable of better.
- Darrius Miller did a great job on Ruoff, particularly in the second half.
- UK really needs to learn to get a step or two closer before trying that lob pass into the post.
- Free throw shooting was the difference in this game.
- At the end of the game, UK looked like the fresher team. I would never have believed that given their trials of last night.
- The lack of layoff clearly showed in Meeks' shooting.
- Patrick Patterson needs to familiarize himself with the two-handed slam.
That's it for now. Add your comments in.