Needless to say, it is a lot of fun to write postmortems after the Kentucky Wildcats beat the Louisville Cardinals. It is even more fun when the Wildcats come into
Mordor Louisville and hand the Cardinals a brutal beating, and make no mistake, this was a brutal beating.
As for the Cardinals, well, they played a hard game, but the loss of Rakeem Buckles was a major factor in this contest and I think we should acknowledge that. I don't think the Cardinals win this game with the addition of Buckles, but it would have been closer, I deem. The Cardinals played determined, if not particularly good basketball, and they deserve our grudging respect for their effort. They are worthy rivals, no doubt about it.
Let's get one major thing out of the way right now -- with all the talk about a possible Pitino induction into the Hall of Fame this year, Calipari flat handed him his hat in this one. He did exactly what great coaches do when they see a weakness -- exploit it to the fullest. Calipari ran the same plays over and over and over again, and very rarely did we see anything resembling a Dribble Drive Motion set. Kentucky slowed down the game and patiently took Louisville apart like a tinker-toy.
Superlatives after the jump.
Superlatives. Pretty much the whole team here, but we'll talk about a few players:
Josh Harrellson, basketball player. Harrellson stationed himself on the weak side the whole game, and just completely absorbed the offensive rebounds. Rarely have I seen such an unheralded player completely dominate players like Terrence Jennings, who was much more highly touted out of high school. Even the taller and longer Gorgui Dieng was completely overwhelmed by Harrellson's terrific footwork around the basket, and his thickness.
It is hard to appreciate, as a basketball fan, the transformation that has overtaken Harrellson if you haven't been watching him for years. He is now more than a serviceable center -- he is a bona-fide critical piece of this team that we would be hard pressed to do without. In learning to just focus on what the team needs and nothing else, Harrellson has turned himself into an All-SEC contender. Who could have imagined that at the beginning of the year?
The game ball in this one is about as mysterious as a movie you have watched a dozen times.
DeAndre Liggins. Liggins prowled the floor like a great predator, throwing his body at every basketball that came near him. He completely undressed Peyton Siva, and this abuse will likely stay with him a while. Liggins just keeps getting better, and even when he shoots the ball poorly like he did today, he has a major impact on the outcome of the game with his incredible defense.
Brandon Knight. This kid does everything he needs to do. He was a little loose with the ball a few times, but the Cardinals discovered early that the press was not going to rattle him, and it never did. Knight shot the ball only so-so for him, but he was terrific running the team, and I have never been more comfortable with a player having the ball in his hands. He runs the team like a four-year veteran.
- Terrence Jones. Jones did not shoot particularly well, but he came on late and made some big plays. He rebounded the ball and was in on a ton of blocks.
Darius Miller was the guy that got us the big lead. He then messed around and got himself in foul trouble, but UK managed to press on without him, even though Doron Lamb did not do much scoring in this game. Lamb did do a good job running the team when Brandon Knight got his second foul late in the first half.
Overall, this was by far the best defensive effort from this team all year, and no mistake. The Cardinals are a dangerous offensive team and Kentucky simply treated them like a MEAC or OVC team. There were no confrontations, no excessively physical play, no real nastiness that you can detect from a television game. The officials did not really insert themselves into the game, and the game flow was consistent.
Kentucky fans, we are guaranteed a happy beginning to 2011, as I know we are all going to be celebrating this win for a while. This is one of those good times, and we can celebrate not only a win in 2010, but for two years in a row. When the game returns to Rupp Arena next year, we have a chance to go on another 3-win spurt.
We own the Cardinals lock, stock, and barrel in Men's revenue sports for the second year in a row. Good has once again triumphed over Evil, and even though I dwell ever in the shadows of the Red and Black Land, it heartens me greatly when the Blue and White knights from Lexington come to town put them firmly back in their place.