The Kentucky Wildcats and Portland Pilots clashed for the second consecutive year, this time in Rupp Arena, with the Wildcats coming out on top 83-67. This game was expected to be fairly nondescript, but it was anything but.
Congratulations to the Portland Pilots for playing Kentucky tough, yielding only grudgingly to the inevitable Wildcat victory. The Pilots executed their offense better than any team Kentucky has played to date, and some remarkable 3-point shooting that belied their current statistical mediocrity in that area combined with Kentucky's inability to fight through screens or switch effectively on defense kept this game much closer than it probably should have been.
This game was notable for the high number of short shots and layups the Wildcats missed, as well as some solid offensive rebounding by the Pilots. Offensive rebounding, in fact, has been a relative weakness in Kentucky's otherwise very impressive games so far this year, and that still shows up as an area that needs improvement. Kentucky and Portland battled to a statistical draw in that area, but there are much bigger and better teams than the Pilots on the offensive glass coming up in the Wildcats' schedule.
- Anthony Davis gets the game ball tonight on the strength of a double-double including 13 points, 12 rebounds 4 blocks and 2 steals. The only negative for him tonight was free throw shooting.
- Marquis Teague shot the ball poorly, but made his free throws and dropped 8 dimes without a single turnover, to go along with four steals. Great game.
- Terrence Jones had a very strong game also with 19 points, but only 4 total rebounds to go with a couple of steals, a couple of blocks and three assists.
- Darius Miller was also great with 19 points on 4-5 from the arc to go with 5 rebounds.
- Doron Lamb didn't shoot well, but he made his free throws and dropped 4 dimes.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played pretty well offensively, but his defense was just a little bit off tonight. He still finished with good numbers including 11 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals.
- The dunk Kidd-Gilchrist threw down in the second half off a steal was something to see.
- Kentucky as a team took terrific care of the ball tonight, managing a remarkable 5.8% turnovers. That's better than good, that's pretty much top shelf.
Not so great:
- Kyle Wiltjer. Kyle just seemed out of sorts at times today, and managed only 1 field goal and 2 rebounds in 15 forgettable minutes. He also got lost several times on defense.
- Kentucky's ball screen defense was really ineffective tonight, resulting in Portland getting open for a large number of three point shots, many of which went in. A couple of those threes were just luck, like the banker and the 25-foot fall-away, but most of them were wide-open looks which Kentucky seemed to only halfheartedly challenge.
- The aforementioned offensive rebounding is still a sore spot.
- The intensity in the first half was really not what UK has been bringing. It picked up in the second, but you can't really turn it on and off like that.
- UK must have missed ten point-blank shots, including four dead layups.
Overall, this was not Kentucky's best effort, although Portland's outstanding offensive execution made the Wildcats look bad sometimes. The 'Cats need to bone up on the ball screen defense, because it was sorely lacking tonight. Also, I thought that the team energy seemed a little low, although someone who actually went to the game might want to correct me on that.
Still, it was another convincing win, but the easy games are over for a while. St. Johns comes in next, and then the mighty North Carolina Tar Heels in a showdown for who is tops in the land next Saturday. That will be an event to remember, no matter who comes out on top.