Kentucky Wildcats 76, Georgia Bulldogs 68 -- Postmortem

I think we all knew it would get tougher when we got into the family.  And it was.

Congratulations to the Georgia Bulldogs for an outstanding effort.  The Kentucky Wildcats were taken out of their comfort zone by the Georgia strategy, and now we all get a good idea of why Mark Fox was tabbed to be the next coach of the Dawgs.  Georgia played this game with the only strategy by which they could win, absent unconscious shooting, and they nearly pulled it off.  They have one future NBA player (Trey Thompkins) and a couple of really good college players who nearly took "undefeated" out of the adjectives used to describe the Kentucky Wildcats.

But in the end, DeMarcus Cousins managed to foul out Georgia's entire front line with the exception of the aforementioned Thompkins, and that was the difference in the game.  Without all the big guys underneath, Georgia was in trouble, and in the end, it cost them the game.

I'm not sure about you, but I thought that Travis Leslie throw-down in the first half over DeMarcus Cousins was one of the great dunks of this entire season so far.  Cousins was trying to draw the foul (and arguably got a bad call on that), so it isn't as if he went for the block and got posterized.  Still, it was a momentum play that fired up the Dawgs and gave them confidence that they could take on the more talented 'Cats.  

The most amazing thing about that play is that there was no chest-pounding, no bowing up, no trash-talking.  Leslie just turned around, checked the call, nodded his head and went to the line.  How professional was that?

More after the jump.

Honestly, this was probably a very valuable game for Kentucky -- a close game in which they were able to gut out a tough win.  Those are the kinds of games that will help them gain the confidence they need to defeat an equally talented opponent when the shots are just not falling.

Speaking of shots not falling, the 'Cats were shooting a lot of blanks today.  Even the normally-reliable Patrick Patterson missed several shots he normally makes, and the entire team seemed to catch the "miss-em-all" bug at the same time, allowing Georgia to make a run and take the lead into the locker room.

But in the second half, the 'Cats showed why they are the #3 ranked team in the nation.  Even when their shots weren't falling and the calls were not going their way, they found a way to get the job done.  Here are a few of my observations:

  • The officials did a terrible job, and the game wound up looking one-sided on that front.  The highlight of that was the phantom tripping foul called on John Wall versus Ricky McPhee late in the first half.
  • John Wall wasn't himself.  His passes were not nearly as crisp or as prescient as they have been all year.
  • Darrius Miller just needs to play better.  He wasn't a factor in the game.
  • DeAndre Liggins was fantastic.  His defense was a difference-maker, and his attitude has changed to that of a senior in one year.  What a transformation he has undergone.
  • DeMarcus Cousins may yet make a liar out of me and not get ejected.  His demeanor today was perfect, absolutely perfect -- energized when the team needed it, and calm when you think he would be angry.  Awesome.
  • Eric Bledsoe just keeps getting better.  He wasn't perfect today, but he did some really great things.
  • How good was that interior pass from Cousins to Patterson that resulted in a 3-point play?  Man, if Cousins could do more of that, there is no ceiling for this team.
  • Gotta give Georgia credit -- their interior passing was the best I have seen versus the 'Cats this year.
  • Darnell Dodson couldn't hit the ocean from a rowboat in the middle of the South Pacific today.  It happens.
  • Patrick Patterson did not impress me with his defense of Trey Thompkins.  I know Thompkins is good, but Patterson should be better.
  • Daniel Orton did good things in the first half, but he was a non-factor in the second.  He will have better games than this -- a lot better.
  • No postmortem would be complete without a Ramon Harris mention.  Ramon worked hard, played good defense, but didn't impact the stat sheet.
  • Nice job by Mark Fox.  Very nice.
Overall, a gritty win for Kentucky against a team that is better than advertised this year.  They aren't likely to make the NCAA tournament, but I think the Dawgs could be dangerous in the NIT.  And they gave the #3 team in the nation all they could handle today.

Next, it's on to the O-Dome for some Gator tail.
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