St. John's Red Storm 59 @ Kentucky Wildcats (1) 81:  Postmortem

Terrence Jones was terrific tonight.

The St. John's Red Storm came in to Rupp Arena tonight trying to knock off the #1 Kentucky Wildcats by controlling the tempo and playing a tough, aggressive trapping zone defense. Head coach Steve Lavin was not with the team tonight, still recovering from his prostate cancer surgery.

Unfortunately for the Red Storm, they simply didn't have the horses, or the shooters, to pull of the slow-down game against Kentucky. The Johnnies did not lack for effort, and at times, showed real flashes of the kind of ability that will serve them very well after they get their head coach back and get a few more games under their belt. As young as St. John's is, they are growing up fast and will be much better by the end of the year. We thank them for coming down to the Bluegrass State and giving a terrific effort.

But the Wildcats were, in the parlance of horseracing, "much the best" tonight. In the first half, Kentucky struggled to make shots despite getting a ton of open looks. In the second, Coach Cal unleashed the hounds, and the Wildcats ran amok in both the half-court and transition with a vast array of dunks, spectacular shots, and defensive gems. All the prodigious talent that is Kentucky basketball at this point in time was on full display for the sold-out Big Blue Faithful in attendance.

Superlatives:

  • You would think that the near-triple-double by Anthony Davis would be enough for him to get the game ball all by himself, but it wasn't. Terrence Jones was just as good with 26 points and 9 rebounds to go with a couple of spectacular dunks, 4 blocks and 4 steals. Jones gets a share.
  • Anthony Davis, by virtue of a spectacular 15 points, 15 rebounds, 8 blocks and 2 steals shares the other half of the game ball. UK's front line big guys were amazing tonight.
  • Very impressed by Marquis Teague's play tonight -- steady and with only 2 turnovers to go with 5 assists and 5 points. A very high-quality point guard type game.
  • Doron Lamb had a really good game, doing what he does -- shooting the ball. 16 points on 6-10 shooting, 3 assists and only 1 turnover. Quality game, and exactly what you want from your shooting guard.
  • Eloy Vargas only played 5 minutes, but they were 5 quality minutes, getting 3 rebounds and making a beautiful hustle play were he got down on the floor and saved a possession. He also showed some good defensive intensity and footwork. Vargas is making a case for more minutes, and I doubt that it is lost on Coach Cal.
  • Darius Miller had a poor shooting night, but he did a lot of damage in other ways, leading the team in assists with six and making the most impressive dunk of the night, although Terrence Jones' 2-hand putback at the end of the first half gives him a powerful argument to disagree.
  • Shot selection was great for UK this game. I didn't say "bad shot" one single time tonight, and I can't recall a single challenged perimeter shot for UK. The team was patient, moved the ball, did not overhandle and just generally ran the offense flawlessly. If they had shot a decent percentage of open looks in the first half, this game would have been by far their best of the season.
  • I haven't bothered to calculate OR%, but suffice it to say, it will be outstanding. Turnover% will be good, also.

Not so great

  • Kyle Wiltjer had a forgettable night, looking pretty freshman-like with 1-5 shooting and only 3 rebounds in 12 minutes. He did have a couple of good rebounds in traffic, but this wasn't his best.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist just struggled today. He had trouble shooting, he only managed a couple of rebounds and didn't really seem comfortable offensively. He played good defense as always, but for me, this just wasn't his best.
  • Free throw shooting is still not good enough. 67% is not going to lose you games, but there is no excuse for this team shooting below 70%.
  • I thought our transition defense really sucked tonight, for the most part.

St. John's is a smallish team that had a lot of difficulty with Kentucky's length, but when the North Carolina Tar Heels bring their traveling fast-break show into Rupp Arena on Saturday, suffice it to say that the Wildcats will not have that advantage. With that said, if Kentucky executes in the half-court like they did tonight versus the Johnnies, I really like our chances. But if UK is as slow in transition as they were tonight versus North Carolina, it could very well go the other way.

Great win. In two days, it's the big one. Go, 'Cats!

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