I was a little off my game today, forgetting the open game thread and forgetting to open a second half thread. Fortunately, though, the Kentucky Wildcats were on their game, and handed the Georgia Bulldogs a Senior Day loss in Athens.
The Bulldogs played very hard tonight, as they have all year. Georgia has talent and size, but their big limitation to being a contender in the SEC right now is depth, particularly at the wing position. Travis Leslie is a remarkable athletic presence, and his rebounding belies his 6'5" size, but he has very little backup and it showed tonight. The Georgia crowd was loud, proud and typically classy, and the Bulldog team played with effort and heart and stayed in the game until the very end. Mark Fox is off to a good start at Georgia, and if they have a bit of a run from here on out, some kind of post-season is not impossible this year for them.
But Kentucky was just too much for anyone tonight. It has been a long time, actually since the Suffocats, since I saw a stretch of defense like we saw in the early second half of this basketball game. Kentucky turned Georgia over on four of their first six possessions of the second half, and then proceeded to block shot after shot as though they were playing a high school team -- and this is a Georgia team who had been undefeated at home and had pulled several big upsets. Kentucky was just devastating on defense at times in this game, and to score, Georgia made some really tough, challenged shots.
- It's been said over and over, but the bench was remarkable tonight. They didn't just score, they defended and rebounded.
- Darnell Dodson finally came out of his 3-point slump, as did Eric Bledsoe and John Wall. It was nice to see, but we knew it would happen, didn't we?
- John Wall is simply unstoppable in the open floor. Travis Leslie got away with a foul on the left-handed Wall dunk, in my opinion.
DeMarcus Cousins did not have a typical Big Cuz game, but he had some nice plays and rebounded well. What about that coast-to-coast drive? Pretty amazing.
- Patrick Patterson was the beast tonight. Game ball.
- Darius Miller played perhaps his best game of the year. He defended, he rebounded, and he scored. he did not let missed shots bother him. Fantastic game.
- DeAndre Liggins, again, was terrific. I swear, this kid gets better by the minute. He rebounds, blocks shots, and now he's driving it to the basket like John Wall. You gotta love this guy.
- Daniel Orton had a really good game, and made a nice 12 foot jumper to boot.
- Eric Bledsoe played much better this game in almost every way. It was easy to overlook him, but he really helped get the tempo up for that spurt late in the first half that was the beginning of the end for Georgia.
- Perry Stevenson impacted the game in a positive way, getting at least one block and an authoritative throw-down.
- That John Wall, he's pretty good at basketball.
- Ramon Harris played some crucial minutes, and really helped.
- What happened to the tight rotation? Fouls, that's what. Still, I wonder why we don't play more people?
- How good was Jeremy Price tonight for the Dawgs? That kid has a future in this game.
- I loved the full-court pressure in the first half. I thought it threw the Dawgs off their game.
- Travis Leslie is an incredible athlete. I shudder to think how good he would be if he developed a perimeter game. Dwane Wade II, anyone?
This was a huge win for Kentucky, and has done much to preserve our putative #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, something I (and Cal too, from all indications) am desperate to see UK get. Tonight, Kentucky did the work, got the win in a tough environment in a convincing way against a very good team that is much better than their record, and sent a strong message to everyone else in the process.
Next, we have our old friends the Gators, and senior day, on Sunday. Let's get ready to send these players off with a bang.