Kentucky came to play this afternoon in the Wildcats' 92-63 victory over the Rider Broncs, that much is not up for debate. Impressive not only on the offensive end, the 'Cats brought their hard hats to the defensive end of the court, as John Calipari's club dropped the hammer on the Broncs' outside game, which should be a welcome sight to UK's coaching staff as well as Big Blue fans everywhere.
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- Patrick Patterson continues to grow his legend. UK's junior power forward grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds, with nine of those boards coming on the offensive end. His outstanding shooting also continued, as Patterson made eight of 13 shots. Freshman, shreshman, Patterson will be the big man on campus as long as he's wearing the blue and white.
- Speaking of freshmen -- Point guard John Wall and his 360-degree acrobatics continues to impress. Wall, in 35 minutes of play, contributed a team-high 21 points to go with 11 assists; the first of what will be many double-doubles in the young star's future. In reaching his 21 points, Wall made eight of 12 shots (0-2 three-pointers) and more impressively, five of six free throws. He committed only two turnovers, had six rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots ... I think this kid is gonna be pretty good.
- Wall's freshman guard counterpart, Eric Bledsoe, scored 11 points, but made only three of 10 shots. Not great, until one considers all three of his makes were of the three-point variety (out of six shots taken). He did commit a team-high five turnovers, but he helped offset that number by handing out one assist, blocking one shot, and committing two steals. Once again, encouraging to this fan, Bledsoe made 2-2 free throws.
- Daniel Orton, the big man from Oklahoma, had his best game as a Wildcat this afternoon, making five of seven shots, and four of five free throws for 14 points. He also grabbed six rebounds, dished out one assist and had one steal. All of this in only 23 minutes of play. Orton is beginning to show that it's not all about DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson in the paint. After the tremendous play of Cousins so far this year, it's certainly good to see Orton assert himself, and fight for playing time.
- Cousins, who made the mistake of fouling a three-point shooter, played only 15 minutes, but wow, he packs a lot into a quarter-of-an-hour -- 18 points (7-10 shooting), six rebounds (four offensive), five blocks, and one steal -- At half-time coach Calipari wasn't sure who to start in the second half, because Orton had been playing so well. Cal sent assistant John Robic to ask Cousins his thoughts on the matter, and Cousins told Robic to start Orton, not because he didn't want to play, but because, "Orton is playing so good." Sacrificing for the good of the team is a huge step in playing championship basketball, and Cousins seems to have already taken that step.
- Darius Miller, in 23 minutes, scored five points and grabbed three rebounds. Impressively, he had three assists to zero turnovers. Miller, with his unselfish attitude, is apt to have games where his scoring suffers, but he is finding ways to help the team without lighting up the scoreboard.
- As a team, UK once again shot the ball well, making 51.5% of their shots (34-66). Also, for the first time this season, the 'Cats handed out more assists (17), than turnovers (15).
- UK's 10 blocks continues a trend I expect to see for the entire season.
- The 'Cats made only four of 16 three-pointers (25.0%) on the day, but the guards (Wall, Bledsoe, and Miller) made four of 11 trey tries, good for a very acceptable 36.4%.
- UK also improved their season free throw average by making 71.4% of their charity tries (20-28). The primary ball-handlers, Wall and Bledsoe, made seven of eight free throws.
- Defensively, the 'Cats held the formerly hot shooting Broncs to only 31.0% on their field goal attempts, and finally, thankfully, the boys in blue guarded the perimeter like they meant it, allowing only four of 17 three-point shooting (23.5%). Coming into the game the Broncs were hitting the trey at a 48% rate. Today, they didn't make their first three-point shot until the first minute of the second half, and down 28 points. Intensity and focus led to the 'Cats improved defense ... let's hope that continues as the boys head to sunny Cancun.
- Kentucky forced 20 turnovers (10 turnovers the result of UK steals), scoring 30 points off those turnovers. Simply an excellent conversion rate, and proof of the finishers UK has this year. Conversely, Rider scored only 15 points off UK's 15 turnovers.
- Second-chance points, which should be a UK strong-suit, was dominated by the 'Cats, with UK scoring 24 points and Rider only 11.
- UK of course dominated the points in the paint category, 56-20.
My thanks to the Broncs for coming into Rupp Arena and playing a hard, clean game. Good luck for the rest of the year.
Don't forget -- In their quest for their seventh win the gridiron 'Cats will be taking on the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium tonight at 7:45 EST.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!