Kentucky Wildcats 104, Hartford Hawks 61:  Postmortem

What can you say when a team far exceeds your expectations?  Yes, Hartford had only managed two wins so far this year.  Yes, Hartford is not a team that was ever likely to give UK a tough game.  But wow, UK scored 57 points in the first half, and probably could have hit 60 if they had not begun to ease off the accelerator a bit.

As warm-ups for the Louisville Cardinals go, this game probably wasn't quite tough enough.  Hartford was simply too small to prevent numerous alley-oop dunks from John Wall to you-name-the-player, and even an alley-oop from Darius Miller to Wall for a nasty reverse dunk that will surely be an iconic and oft-replayed highlight this year on the Worldwide Leader.

With all that said, this game was not a perfect game, at least not defensively.  Offensively, it's hard to imagine how Kentucky could have played any better -- they were simply amazing.  But as we have seen all year, defense is not the strength of this team, even against much weaker foes.

More after the jump.

It isn't that the Wildcats were bad on defense.  In fact, at times they were very good.  The problem is, as it has been all year, that Kentucky could not manage to stop open three-point looks, allowing the undermanned Hawks (they even lost their starting point guard to an injury) from shooting 41% from the arc.

Kentucky is allowing teams, relatively poor teams, mind you, to average 36% from the field.  That's 237th in the NCAA out of 347 teams.  Folks, that's a real problem.

But it's hard to worry about a 43 point victory, isn't it?  Pointing out this team's obvious defensive shortcomings against a team they blew out of the gymnasium is a bit like shouting "fire" in an empty building.  Nobody cares, because even if there is a fire, nobody is at risk.

Eventually, though, this lack of perimeter defense will mater.  Some of you are probably thinking, "Well, by that time, Calipari will have the problem solved."  Maybe.  We'll have wait and see.

Here are a few more observations:

  • No Eric Bledsoe today.  Calipari must have decided rest was better, and given the quality of the next foe, I can hardly disagree.
  • Patrick Patterson had three whole rebounds.  You would think that is worthy of complaint, but DeMarcus Cousins and Darnell Dodson sucked them all up.  Dodson had 3 of his 8 rebounds on one possession.
  • Dodson really shot the ball well.  Kentucky is a terrific 3-point shooting team, (50% tonight) and most of us can imagine remember a time when we actually worried about that.
  • You had to love Dodson's effort overall tonight.  He still isn't a great defender, but he really gave maximum effort tonight, and we need to recognize him for working so hard.
  • Ramon Harris is such a great complimentary player.  If you watch this game on replay and just pay attention to what he did, you will be amazed.
  • There are no superlatives that fit John Wall.  I think Tina Turner has it closest with, "Simply the best."  Offensively, there is no point guard in America, perhaps even in the NBA, that is as good.
  • DeMarcus Cousins' individual efficiency in both scoring and rebounding is just plain sick.  He is really beginning to "get it" defensively, too.
  • Darius Miller looked great tonight.  If he could find consistency on offense, Kentucky would be scary to everybody, including Texas and Kansas.
  • Daniel Orton just keeps doing yeoman's work.  He never complains, never changes expressions, is always on an even keel.  10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks in 13 minutes.  Efficient.
  • DeAndre Liggins got 19 minutes tonight, and looked very good, particularly defensively.  He is out of Calipari's dog house and making an impact.
It's hard not to love what this team does offensively, but the defense is still not that great.  You can't tell that from the stats (except the 3-point percentage) tonight, but if you watched the game closely, you know that the Kentucky defense is not there yet.  We are all hoping when the 'Cats face the Cards on Saturday, they will bring a much greater defensive intensity.

But one thing is for sure -- this team is very, very tough to defend, and their size and quickness is almost unmatched.  Even if the 'Cats play lousy defense, the odds are that you are not going to be able to stop them on offense.

We'll find out soon.  The Cardinals are next.
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