Let me start out by saying that the Vanderbilt Commodores gave a game effort today considering that arguably their best player was out with an injury. Despite falling behind by 20 midway through the second half, Vanderbilt not only made a game of it but put a real scare into most Kentucky fans by going on a 17-5 run at the end of the game to get the deficit to 6 with over two minutes left to play. In the end, it wasn't enough, but you have to admire the effort it took.
For Kentucky, this was a very uneven effort. The first part of the game was full of defensive errors that lead to Vanderbilt baskets, particularly from outside. But at about the ten minute mark in the first half, Patterson got his second foul and the bench came in and picked the team up, ultimately allowing Kentucky to go up five at the break.
The second half saw Kentucky's defense play very well for 75% of the period. In the other 25%, Vanderbilt was almost able to make a breathtaking comeback thanks to some untimely turnovers by Kentucky, missed defensive assignments and weak rebounding. In the end Kentucky held on, but it wasn't an effort that they want to point to as an example of their best basketball.
Here are my observations:
- Patrick Patterson was not impressive today. Yes, Vanderbilt was very effective taking him away, but Patterson only managed 1 rebound. Yes, he was in foul trouble, but Patterson should get more than one rebound by accident. He did have 3 blocks and 11 points, so he did help.
- Jodie Meeks played hard, but not particularly well offensively. So he did the next best thing and played solid defense (except for a breakdown near the end of the game) and rebounded the basketball.
- Darius Miller did some good things out there, but he just couldn't buy one from the field.
- I loved DeAndre Liggins' defensive effort, and hated his effort on offense in the first half. He forced three shots and made a brain-dead turnover. But defensively, he was a nightmare for Tinsley. With Liggins in the game, Tinsley did not get a single clean look, and I don't think he made but one shot in the second half. At one point, Liggins turned Vanderbilt over on two consecutive possessions and forced a jump ball on the third. Interestingly, after that aforementioned dumb turnover, he didn't have another one. He only had two assists, though.
- Perry Stevenson had a good game, but he still tends to disappear at times and only managed 2 rebounds. He did have 3 big blocks.
- Michael Porter was adequate, and made a clutch shot. But he seemed tentative to me and turns down way to many open shots. He did make his free throws, though, and that was critical.
- Ramon Harris was terrific on the offensive end. He was less than terrific defensively, however. An unusual reversal of the norm, but he did rebound very well.
- 12 total turnovers, and about 4 of them happened in the last 3 minutes.
- At times, Kentucky's defense was remarkable. At others it was pitiful.
- Kentucky showed good patience attacking Vanderbilt's zone. I'm glad to see the 'Cats learning to do this, because they will be seeing the zone a lot this year.
- Josh Harrellson needs to have more of an impact. He made one really clutch shot, but that's about all.
- UK was outrebounded by a team playing mostly zone. That ought to make Gillispie apoplectic.
Overall, this was a pedestrian effort that could have been good but for a very few minutes of ineptitude. The most important thing about this game was the final result, which is a win. But we are going to need a much better performance to deal with Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas.