Thanks to IU for their effort in this game. Everyone knows they are down this year, and it really showed last night, but they came and gave it all they had. In fact, they played much better in the second half and beat UK by five in that last 20 minutes. I have no doubt that Tom Crean will have Indiana back in top form very soon. [Editor's Note: I forgot to put this part in my post last night as I usually do. Apologies to IU fans.]
Well, this game was like a trip around the world in 40 minutes. We got to see the good, the bad, the tragic, the stylish, the sexy, great poverty, sadness, sickness, oppression, hope, a run-on sentence and a partridge in a pear tree. To wit:
- The good -- The first 10 minutes of this game were perhaps, in the approximate words of Greg Anthony, "... the best 10 minutes of defense played in America this year."
- The bad -- The entire second half by UK. Were IU not so talent-challenged, UK may have well blown a 20-point lead.
- The tragic -- IU in the first five minutes. I almost cried from pity (OK, I lied, they were tears of joy).
- The stylish -- Perry Stevenson's four dunks.
- The sexy -- That outrageous one handed scoop-lob by Galloway to Patterson for the dunk. Way too sexy for TV.
- Great poverty -- 2-10 shooting by the 'Cats eight minutes into the second half.
- Sadness -- The look on the IU player's faces going into the locker room after having totaled only 16 13 points for an entire half of basketball.
- Sickness -- Dunk #2 from Perry Stevenson was totally, utterly, and in all meaningful ways well and truly sick.
- Oppression -- IU suffered human rights violations at the hands of the Wildcats worthy of an indictment by the International Court of Criminal Justice. UK's defense in the first eleven minutes was merciless, creating eight turnovers, six of which were steals.
- Hope -- The first ten minutes of this game was a reprise of the first half of the Lamar game, a devastating performance created by defensive intensity the likes of which we haven't seen at UK for five years. Hope for the future? Only if we can sustain it, but if we can, can anyone stand against it?
The following players get the Sea of Blue shout-out for good play: Stevenson, Patterson, Harrellson, Porter.
I must admit, I am tempted to rip the 'Cats for a poor second half performance, but I cannot. The display of superiority in the first ten minutes captured my savage heart, and makes me want to forgive all manner of incompetence. However, I would be remiss if I totally ignored how poorly DeAndre Liggins performed, and how well Michael Porter did. I think Gillispie's idea of starting Porter and Galloway is at least better than putting Porter out there at the point alone, because it gives UK that extra ball-handler they need to avoid problems when Porter is closely defended. Porter is much more mature and that maturity showed today, but even at his worst, DeAndre Liggins is better in almost every respect.
Yes, the Wildcats committed way too many turnovers (23, to be exact), led by Liggins' 6, but the Hoosiers were simply unable to capitalize on them. Unfortunately for Kentucky, other teams won't be so generous. But what sticks out to me in this game is not the turnovers, which we have seen all year, but the incredible stretch of intensity we saw in the first half. It was the kind of effort that can emasculate even a good team, and had they maintained it, would have been as memorable as the 2003 Vanderbilt game in Nashville. But alas, it was not to be this time.
For much of the game, we saw the same unfocused Kentucky team we have seen for most of this year. But oh, those ten minutes were truly promising, and as every Kentucky fan knows, it is that promise that we live for.
UPDATE Sunday, 12/14/2008 9:05 -- It seems that at least for one shining moment this year (and hopefully more to come) both coach Gillispie and I are on exactly the same page. He is way more amped about the good we saw in this game than disappointed about the bad, at least in public.
Yes, the second half saw UK return to Miami first half form, but if we had played this particular game against Miami, I am fairly confident that we would have won, although perhaps not by very much. There has been far too much negativism around the Wildcats lately, and I have contributed my share of it. Perhaps it's time we took a cue from the coach and celebrated a team victory and the astounding first ten minutes of the game rather than dwelling on the bad. This team has made a significant improvement overall from the last two games, and if it continues to improve, I like our chances in the SEC.
For all those out there inclined to focus on the ugly second half, take a break. There is a whole week of practice to work on that before the next game. Let's try being a little upbeat around here, I think there is ample cause for a bit of celebration. If nothing else, we have seen just how good this team can be at its best, and that is really, really good.