Well, once again the Memorial Gym advantage jumps up and bites Kentucky as they fall to the Vanderbilt Commodores, 77-64.
First of, congratulations to Vanderbilt on a very well-conceived game. The Commodores took advantage of Kentucky's lack of size, and punished UK on the glass, outrebounding the 'Cats 37-26. Vandy also had the benefit of a friendly whistle, but that made little difference. The Commodores simply took it to Kentucky and won the game the old-fashioned way -- they earned it.
For Kentucky, this is a damaging loss. Not only do the 'Cats fall temporarily out of the race for the East, they lose to a team that they should have beaten. The NCAA selection committee will take into consideration that the 'Cats were undermanned with Patrick Patterson down with an ankle injury, but that will not make up for the damage done to Kentucky's tournament chances by this loss.
The story of this game, quite frankly, was fouls. Kentucky could not adjust to the whistle and ended up sending a good-shooting Vanderbilt team to the line 40 times, where the Commodores made all but eight. Not only that, the Wildcats allowed Vanderbilt to shoot 47% from the field and 46% from the arc. You can recover from one of those stats, but not all three.
What is it about Memorial Gym and fouls? I remember Pitino getting run out of the place one year when Vanderbilt shot about 50 more free throws than UK did. We didn't get quite there tonight, but it was close.
Here are the rest of my observations about this "game":
- Kentucky without Patrick Patterson simply does not have enough scoring to win against most opponents, nor do they have enough rebounding.
- I have no idea what happened to Josh Harrellson. I suppose Gillispie figured that we had a better chance to beat Vanderbilt by letting them wear us out on the glass and hope they couldn't shoot the ball in from two feet. Note to Coach -- it didn't work.
- Jodie Meeks managed only 6-21, a dismal 28%. No way can Kentucky win when he shoots that poorly. Vanderbilt's defense was responsible for a good bit of that, but quite frankly, he was just cold -- he missed a number of wide-open looks that he usually makes without even touching the rim.
- What a game by A.J. Stewart. He made a lot of mistakes, but he also did the one thing almost nobody else could do tonight -- Put the ball in the basket.
- This has got to be the single worst game I have ever seen Perry Stevenson play. Two rebounds? Stevenson played like a freshman.
- Ramon Harris? Futility. At least he didn't turn the ball over, but ....
- ... Michael Porter did. Liberally. 4 turnovers, ONE assist. Oh-fer everything except for one layup.
- Darius Miller played a fair game, overall, except for one thing. One rebound.
- DeAndre Liggins had four rebounds, three assists, one turnover one steal and two blocks. Unmentioned in that is a couple of wild, aimless charges down the floor to what purpose only he and God knows.
- Kevin Galloway? Well, he was pretty good. As many turnovers as assists, but he brought energy and aggression and also put a few points on the board in the process, winding up with 9 points on 4-6 shooting.
- How is it that Gillsipie can get a technical foul on his haunches like that? I mean, what the heck does he say, the F-bomb? I have never seen a less demonstrative technical than the one Gillispie received tonight in all my life.
Maybe Gillispie should have used sign language, or at least got his money's worth by jumping up and down like an outraged, barking moonbat. Even a few flecks of foam around the corners of his mouth and a bit of spittle flying around would have made me feel better about it.
To add insult to injury, the officiating got worse after that.
- A.J. Ogilvy made some very unsportsmanlike plays tonight. If he had been in Rupp Arena, he may well have been ejected. He sure did make free throws, though.
There are a ton of gripes I can make about this game, and I know most of you feel the same way. I know most of us were very uncomfortable trying to win a game in Memorial Gym with our only real inside threat injured, and that apprehensiveness turned out to be well founded. It's tough winning in that goofy place under the best of circumstances, but wounded and doing it on the road for the second time in a row turned out to be just a little more than this team is capable of.
There are a few good things to take away from this, mainly in the form of surprising play from A.J. Stewart and a reprise by Kevin Galloway of his earlier good game against Florida. Darius Miller is getting noticably closer to an effective player on offense, and DeAndre Liggins is at least doing more good than harm.
Unfortunately, those good things were more than offset by Perry Stevenson transforming himself into a ghost, Josh Harrellson doing something to motivate Gillispie to bench him from about the 10:00 mark in the first half to the final buzzer, and the continued weak play of Ramon Harris.
Where does all this leave us? On the bubble. If we weren't on there before this game, we are definitely on there now. Was this just a bad shooting night, or a harbinger of future doom? I don't really know, but I do know we'd better start praying for Patterson's ankle to heal -- and fast.