Central Michigan University came into Rupp Arena tonight undermanned and injured, but despite these facts they dominated the Wildcats for the first five minutes of the game. Unfortunately for the Chippewas, Kentucky dominated the other 35 even more convincingly. I'm sure Kentucky fans appreciate the gritty effort by the Chippewas in a losing cause, and they can take pride in the fact that, for a while there, they had most of the Commonwealth cursing at their television set, radio, or ESPN 360.
I'm not quite sure how to feel about this game. On the one hand Kentucky won it easily, but on the other hand, it seems there were a lot of things that went wrong. When you look at the statistics it's hard to really criticize any particutlar thing. UK had 22 assists on 30 made baskets, shot outstanding percentages from everywhere, suffered only 13 turnovers (not a bad number for this team), had seven blocks and eight steals not to mention easily winning the game.
Still, it somehow seems like we played relatively poorly even though there is no way to support such a conclusion from the statistics. I think that I got used to the fast starts and huge leads early in the game and anything falling short of that looks like a failure. But make no mistake, this game was not a failure -- it just didn't feel as good as the stats look.
But, that aside, here are some observations:
- The Liggins/Porter battle (at least in the minds of some Wildcat fans) looks like a draw tonight. Liggins had a career high 8 assists and 4 rebounds, but he tarnished those spectacular numbers with 5 turnovers and 3-8 shooting. For the entire early part of the second half, he looked completely out of control on both ends. He did steady down in the end when the game was out of reach. Liggins played solid defense, much better than last game.
- Porter, on the other hand, had a good shooting game with 12 points on 4-8 shooting, and found his three point touch again. Unfortunately, he had only 3 assists with 4 turnovers. Porter did not do nearly as well as his last 4 games, but he was steady, solid on defense, and generally made good decisions.
- Jodie Meeks once again looked great from the perimeter, but he is a little to selfish sometimes. He needs to learn how to pass and rebound -- only one assist and only two rebounds. But he did have two steals and played solid defense, so overall, he had a good game.
- Patrick Patterson was, as usual, awesome. He missed only one shot in seven attempts, made all three of his free throws, and had only one turnover to go with nine rebounds. All-American numbers.
- What can I say about Landon Slone? He was just great on both ends of the floor. I just wonder how he will do when faced with high-major athletes. We'll find out soon enough.
- Darius Miller is just struggling, and that's all there is to it. He looked dejected on the bench tonight, and I hope he gets his confidence back soon. We need him. He is trying so hard that he is overplaying, allowing more patient opposing players to eventually disadvantage him.
- Perry Stevenson was a DNP/player's decision. I say that because he was invisible other than a couple of blocks. Four total rebounds. He vanished into the background noise. We need more from him than that.
- Josh Harrellson had a great game, Pattersonesque. He was solid on offense and defense, and made good decisions and did the little things. It's nice to see him back. If only he and Perry could find themselves on the same page at the same time.
- AJ Stewart was active, and had three blocks and two goaltends.
At the end of the day, this was the kind of game you might call "uneven" if you didn't look at the stats, but one thing I do notice is that we only outrebounded them by three and CMU beat us by 5 on the offensive glass. Rebounding has been a weakness of this team all year, and it baffles me.
But that aside, we are done with relatively easy home games. Now, we must take on the Louisville Cardinals, who are not hurt, who are most certainly not undermanned against anyone but maybe North Carolina or the Boston Celtics, and who surely represent another level of challenge. I daresay that if we get behind early by nine against them, our odds of a successful outcome will be greatly diminished.
No more Little Debbie. No more Hostess. The fun is over. The work begins now, and the degree of difficulty goes up by an order of magnitude. Are we ready?
I hope so.