Kentucky refused to let Memorial lose it's magic, as they prevail against the game UNLV Runnin' Rebels, 70-60 in the first round of the NIT.
You have to give Lon Kruger and the Rebels credt -- they absolutely did not give up, even when Kentucky had them down by 20 points. The 'Cats apparently forgot how important it is to defend the three for a while, and before you could say "One-armed bandit," the Rebs had clawed back within three. Congrats to the Rebels for a game effort, and making the kind of dramatic comeback that has given UK fans nightmares all year long. But this time, the 'Cats woke up before their season died at the hands of "Freddie" Kruger and the Rebels.
Kentucky looked very good for about 50% of the game, and very much like they have all year for the other 50%. But thanks to some solid contributions from the non-scorers and a determined effort by Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks, the 'Cats were able to get the job done in the end with clutch free throw shooting and sound defense in the last 3 minutes.
This has been a great moment in many ways for Kentucky fans -- not because UK wound up in the NIT, but because it gave the 'Cats a chance to play again in the House that Rupp Built in front of 8000+ fans. In a strange way, this was a game that Kentucky fans will remember for years, not for the negatives of being the NIT, but for the memories found in that venerable old gym. Memorial Magic once again asserted itself, and it lead to a sweet moment that I will cherish.
- DeAndre Liggins contributed early and often, logging the most minutes he has had in many games at ten. Nice to see the young man contributing again.
- It's great to see the development of Darius Miller. Yes, he took some bad shots near the end, but he really helped add the points we needed in a game where both Meeks and Patterson were under their average.
- Just another double-double for Patrick Patterson. 7-11 shooting isn't as good as what we have seen from Patterson earlier this year, but it was a marked improvement over recent games. Great rebounding, too.
- Ramon Harris is simply indispensable. He does all the little things and gets none of the credit. Ten rebounds, six points and four assists. How good is that?
- Jodie Meeks did OK, but he was once again very inefficient at 5-12 overall. But he made all his free throws, and that was huge. Jodie still makes a lot of sophomoric mistakes handling the ball, a consequence of missing last year. He is really not ready for the NBA.
- Kevin Galloway just made mistake after mistake. Some of the passes he tried are simply inexplicable, just plain crazy. I just hope he figures it out. He did have four assists against four turnovers.
- Michael Porter did fine. He played an appropriate amount of minutes for a change.
- Perry Stevenson had 10 big points, but we sure need more than 4 rebounds out of him.
- A. J. Stewart gave some valuable minutes today. Good for him.
- Josh Harrellson saw not one second. Gillsipie effect, I suppose.
- Only twelve turnovers tonight. If UK can manage no more than that every game, I like their chances.
- The Rebels shot 44% from three in the second half. It almost doomed UK.
- UK outscored UNLV in the paint by 30-16.
- UK only outscored UNLV 10-8 on second chance points.
- This game was remarkable for its slow pace. Only 47 total shots attempted.
- UK only got one more offensive rebound than UNLV in spite of a big size advantage.
This was a good win for the morale of the Big Blue Nation in a historical UK venue that will not be soon forgotten. UK played pretty well, but is still dealing with most of the inconsistencies that they faced all season. Kentucky badly needs more maturity and an infusion of fresh talent, and they will be getting that next year. But this year, the 'Cats still have a chance to go out on a high note -- if a lot lower than what they'd hoped. Tonight was a good first step.