Kentucky Wildcats 66, Alabama Crimson Tide, 55:  Postmortem

We had been talking a bit recently how the Kentucky Wildcats had been playing pretty basketball in the last few games.  Tonight, they decided that was just too girly for them, I guess, and decided to get real ugly.

But most of that ugliness was delivered courtesy of the Alabama Crimson Tide, who scrambled and fought impressively the entire game, despite being overmatched inside.  Alabama's defense was every bit as impressive as its division-leading status would indicate, and they brought all the scrap and effort that you would expect from a team coached by Anthony Grant.  The Tide showed just a bit today the kind of effort and heart that will soon return them to one of the best teams in the SEC West.  Overall, a very impressive effort from the Elephants.

This was an interesting game tonight.  Alabama played a zone, just as everyone else has done against the 'Cats, and it was a very effective zone, too.  Kentucky struggled a lot in the post-up game, as the Tide were very diligent in double-teaming DeMarcus Cousins every time he touched the basketball.  Cuz did a lot of passing out of the post, but he also turned the ball over quite a bit doing it, showing that, as good as he is, he has plenty of improvement left to make.

In the end, though, the Wildcats did just enough to win by a not-too-scary margin of 11 points.  More observations on that after the jump.

 

Here are a few observations:

  • John Wall still turns the ball over too much.  I know I am a master of the obvious, thank you very much.  I'll be here all week.
  • Cousins was not focused today.  He shot poorly from the stripe, he seemed slow afoot.  Still, he managed a double-double in spite of himself.
  • Now that I've criticized Wall, I want to praise him.  He struggled passing the ball, so he scored the ball.  He played through pain and fought hard, and got a double-double (points, rebounds).  And what about that behind-the-back move?  Just plain sick, doubly so since it was opposed the whole way.
  • Daniel Orton was the difference today.  He really added huge to the game with his energy and defense.  And that great and-1 at the end was probably the dagger.
  • Eric Bledsoe kind of disappered.  But he took pretty good care of the ball, and played good defense.
  • DeAndre Liggins played a pretty good game.  He just keeps getting better.
  • Both Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson were not effective.  Maybe next game.
  • Patrick Patterson had one of those games.  He still did pretty well, but he missed some easy shots and just didn't look as confident as he should be.
  • Calipari always takes Cousins out after his first foul.  He has done it the last several games.  He does it because Cousins tends to pick up his second right after the first, but Cal will ride him until that first foul, then the hook in favor of Orton.  Interesting strategy.
  • Alabama was tough.  I knew they would be.  Anthony Grant is a super, super coach.
  • Can Senario Hillman fly, or can't he?  What an athlete!  If he could only shoot ...
  • Calipari thought Cousins was too quick to kick it out today, and I agree.

Even though Kentucky was not at their best today, they were good enough to beat a pretty good Crimson Tide team who defended like crazy and gave us fits.  A lot of that is just Anthony Grant's style, but Alabama sure was able to disrupt the flow of the game, and they seemed to thrive in the chaos.

I'm listening to the post game right now, and Calipari is making a good point -- John Wall loves to go left, and loves to use the left hand.  But Alabama was attacking John Wall's left hand, so the coaches told Wall, "Hey, you're right handed!  Use your right hand."  Obviously, that worked.  The little things in college basketball are so fun.

Well, that's enough.  The Tennessee Volunteers come to town this weekend, and after losing the battle of Tennessee to their arch-rival, the Vanderbilt Commodores, the Vols will be, "... fully armed, and filthy."  Hopefully, the Wildcats will be, too.

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