I think that was a game Kentucky Wildcats fans have been waiting for out of this team since the early SEC season -- a game that left no doubt who was the best team, and why.
Congratulations to the East Tennessee St. Buccaneers for getting to the NCAA Tournament against long odds and taking on the Wildcats with all the effort they had. Despite facing huge deficits, the Buccaneers never gave up, and kept fighting when many other teams would have simply laid down. It says a lot about ETSU that they never quit, never surrendered, and may have been humbled, but were unbowed.
Kentucky, maybe for the first time in a long time, approached this game with exactly the right mindset, and it showed. They respected their opponent, treated them as though they were as dangerous as the Kansas Jayhawks or the Syracuse Orange. That respect took away any chance of the emotional flip-flop that did in teams like the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Georgetown Hoyas.
Kentucky respected their opponent, looked them in the eye, ripped out the still-beating heart from their chest and ate it right in front of them. There was never any doubt, nor fear, nor trepidation. Kentucky treated the Buccaneers just like this was a Final Four game against another #1 seed. Unfortunately for ETSU, they were not up to that challenge.
More after the jump.
- Eric Bledsoe. What can you say? Who knew he had it in him to break Tony Delk's NCAA 3-point record?
Daniel Orton. He was a beast, a Kracken. I hope he is okay, that fall he took near the end of the game is worrisome. Defensively, he was Kentucky's best player.
- Patrick Patterson. He was a dunking machine. I think he had five or six dunks, and a 3-point shot to boot. He also played great defense.
- John Wall. I'm not sure he missed a shot from the outside. He looked like the #1 draft pick tonight.
- DeAndre Liggins. Once again, he led the team in floor burns and effort plays, and attacked the basket like a demon.
- I thought Darnell Dodson played well. He didn't make many shots, but he made some good, hard, effort plays that are somewhat uncharacteristic of him.
- Darius Miller did not score much, but he was okay. He is still struggling with that shot.
- Perry Stevenson played a very good game. He made a couple of very nice passes and defensive plays.
- As usual, Ramon Harris gave maximum effort, and got some rebounds and loose balls.
Overall, there is not a lot to say about this game. The Wildcats were utterly indomitable tonight, and ETSU probably would have had a better chance against the Chicago Bulls than they did against this Kentucky team. If UK could bottle this and continue to play the way they did in this game, nobody in the tournament would be able to get within 20 points of them. Unfortunately, I doubt that will happen.
Great game by the 'Cats. They impressed everybody tonight, and they should be proud of themselves. But not for long -- it gets tougher from here on out.