Well, that was just lots of fun, wasn't it? For a half, anyway.
Outstanding effort by the Georgia Bulldogs. This was always going to be a tough game for them, especially under the difficult circumstances of their last game against the Florida Gators. But that, as they say, is life in the SEC. The 'Dawgs came in and laid an egg in the first half. They came back and played well in the second and watched Kentucky lay an egg. In the end, both fan bases got one half of good basketball, and one half of crappy basketball. Kentucky won in the end. Good for us, bad for them.
As for Kentucky, well, I have rarely experienced a game where I was so happy at halftime and so ... well, outraged, in the second. This Kentucky team looked like a top three or four team in the country in the first half -- moving the ball, making open shots, getting good looks and taking very few quick or challenged shots. They played the game the way it was meant to be played both offensively and defensively, and had Georgia down 15 points going into half, a lead that could just as easily have been 22 or 23.
Whatever Calipari said in the locker room, I hope he never says it again. Because Kentucky came out in the second half and almost gave the game away. Brandon Knight lost his freaking mind, started hogging the ball, shooting challenged shots, and completely refusing to get his teammates involved. Terrence Jones started missing layups. Then Liggins started missing layups. Then Harrellson started missing free throws, and Jones followed, and then Knight. The defense went to matador, and but for the fact that Howard Trey Thomkins had probably his worst game ever at any level, Kentucky would surely have lost this game.
With all that said, a win is a win. This was a win, so called, but I'm not quite done venting yet. More after the jump.
Josh Harrellson. Harrellson's defense was outstanding, and even though he was limited by fouls, he wound up having a decent statistical game. His pick and roll defense is absolutely spectacular, and if there is a player better at defending the pick and roll in college basketball, I want somebody to show him to me. Unfortunately, he can't make free throws or wide-open baseline jumpers. An airball? Really?
- Doron Lamb was great. Defensively, he was just okay, but we needed every point he delivered, and he delivered 19 big ones, including some clutch free throws down the stretch. Game ball.
DeAndre Liggins had a bad shooting day, but he was still very good on defense, coming up with a huge turnover near the end. Still, he seemed waaaay out of sorts this game, complaining about everything to anyone who would listen.
- Brandon Knight was selfish, a ball hog, and played lousy defense. Hopefully, this is just a one time thing. Dustin Ware abused him all night long. Knight fell in love with the three. Late in the second half, though, he made a really huge layup. So hopefully he'll just forget this one and do better next time. I am by no means down on Brandon, but this was maybe his worst overall game since UConn.
Darius Miller deserves and honorable mention for game ball. He was terrific in the first half, but in typical Miller fashion, disappeared for long stretches of the second. He had 7 big rebounds, though, and played fair defensively. Four turnovers is way too many, though.
- Eloy Vargas gave a minute of pretty good play. I think that deserves mentioning.
- Terrence Jones did some good things, but the couldn't put the ball in the basket for anything. He was just okay defensively.
Kentucky managed only 8 assists, which, while not bad, mostly happened in the first half. In the second half, Kentucky played extremely tentatively, especially in the last five minutes. This team still has no idea how to play with a big lead, and Calipari is part of that problem. He goes to the slow-down far too early, and should run normal offense until the three minute mark. Yes, I know he's one of the great coaches in the college game and I'm a lowly blogger, but that's my dang story and I'm sticking to it.
A win is a win. I'm happy, more or less -- but I'm drinking my celebratory Four Roses Single Barrel with a bit of a furrowed brow.