Finally, UK has a relatively effortless victory over a markedly inferior team. It has not been that way most of this year.
Our thanks to the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs for putting forth excellent effort tonight versus the Kentucky Wildcats. Everyone knew they are a bit undermanned facing the 'Cats huge front line, but the Bulldogs came out and gave it their all tonight in Freedom Hall. Thanks to the Bulldogs for their hard work.
For Kentucky, this was by far the most complete game they have played all year, and even though it's hard to point to progress versus the Bulldogs, it isn't hard to see that UK is working on a lot of things, and that work is beginning to pay off.
I got the impression from Calipari's half-time interview that the DDM offense is only going to be run part-time this year because of the size of this team. Yes, UK is athletic enough in some ways, but the DDM is an offense that is not really run best by a team that goes 6'11", 6'9", and 6'8" across its front line. I think Calipari realizes that he has to use his size in the post, and the move to a hybrid offense that features more of a traditional motion with some added DDM elements is likely to work much better. It certainly hit on all cylinders tonight.
More after the jump.
Tonights observations are little more than handing out superlatives. Here goes:
- What a game by John Wall. What impressed me most all night was not his freakish athleticism, nor his quickness, nor his speed. It was when he found himself one-on-three and instead of trying to score, he pulled the ball back out and waited for his teammates. John Wall is growing up before our eyes.
- Patrick Patterson was as he always is -- steady, determined, mature and highly effective.
- Eric Bledsoe played under control for the first time all year. Nice to see.
- Darnell Dodson was back with his deadeye shooting. Just in time.
- How good can DeMarcus Cousins be? Well, we won't really know until he faces top foes, but he was way, way too much for the Bulldogs. Mabye Calipari is making progress with his free-throw shooting, because this game was the best of his career at UK.
- Darius Miller is getting better and better, particularly from the perimeter.
- Daniel Orton is not quite up to Cousins, but he is still really good and keeps getting better.
- I can't say enough about Calipari's intensity in the first half. It clearly motivated the team.
- The Wildcats moved the basketball better tonight than they have all year, by far. I have no idea how that will translate to tougher opponents -- hopefully well.
- Ramon Harris once again did what he does -- give energy to the defense and pay attention to the little things.
- Turnovers vs. assists -- I'm sure that number will be impressive.
Overall, this was by far the best we have seen of our young Wildcats, but the opponent was not strong enough for us to judge how much of this will carry over to the next game. And it is very important that some of it does carry over to Saturday, because North Carolina will be a much bigger test than any other team we have played so far.
Is UK up to the challenge. I think so, but that may be my heart talking.