Just as I discussed in the game preview, this Loyola, Md. Greyhounds team came to play today, and they absolutely played well for about 25 minutes. Then, as we should expect, Kentucky's superior talent and skill asserted itself to drop the Greyhounds in Rupp Arena this afternoon.
Congratulations to this fine Loyola team on a very hard-fought game. In the first half, the Greyhounds really gave as good as they got, and challenged the Wildcats physically to a rough-and-tumble, foul-laden slugfest. The physicality, as it often does, threw the Wildcats off their rhythm and forced them into a half-court game of attrition. Loyola was very aggressive on defense and offense, and although they never quite had things going their way, went into halftime down only six to the #3 ranked Wildcats in their own house. The second half was all UK, but Loyola earned some respect with their intense and savvy play.
Kentucky seemed not quite ready for the physicality and intensity the Greyhounds brought in the first half, but they got a proper adjustment in the locker room and pretty much blew Loyola away in the second half. In fact, the second half was arguably some of the best basketball UK has played in a while on both sides of the basketball, and despite a still-ailing Terrence Jones riding the bench for the second straight game, the Wildcats matched the Greyhounds shove for shove and push for push in the second half after being intimidated a bit in the first.
|Loyola (MD) Greyhounds|
As usual with the post-game box, green is good, and yellow is not. There is a lot of green here for UK, but if we had done the box score by halves, it would be a different story. Still, the game is 40 minutes long, and the Wildcats came to play in the second stanza.
- When a backup player comes in and scores 24 off of 64% FG shooting, including 50% from the arc, he is going to usually get the game ball. Kyle Wiltjer did, and he does.
- Anthony Davis had another stellar game, and yet another double-double.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could easily have received the game ball. He did what he always does, and really brought the energy. You could see a noticeable drop in energy whenever Kidd-Gilchrist was out of the game, and his Roland Rating for this game was +30. That's battery acid.
- I thought Doron Lamb played fine, but he didn't shoot the ball well from outside, and probably didn't take enough shots. But the defense was focusing on him, and well they should.
- Darius Miller is another who had a case for the game ball. He was aggressive, and really used his body inside. I loved what I saw from Miller today.
- Defensively, the Wildcats were much better in the second half than in the first. Holding Loyola to 45% eFG% is really not impressive, but the way they shut them down in the second half was.
- Another great shooting night for UK overall.
- UK continues to handle the ball well lately, and they got to the line really well today against a team that often dominates that statistic.
- Twany Beckham gave Coach Cal some quality defensive minutes when MKG was forced to the bench in the first half.
Not so superlative:
- Marquis Teague did not play that well today compared to other recent efforts.
- I did not love what I saw out of Eloy Vargas today. He did some good things, but he has been better.
- UK's interior defense was not very good today, and we let Loyola get far too many offensive rebounds.
- 2 steals is just bogus. We have to do better than that.
Overall, there was a lot to like and a little to dislike. I am happy with the second half, not so happy with the first. I continue to be impressed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Kyle Wiltjer, despite getting burned defensively numerous times in the first half, played much better defense in the second. He is learning fast.
I can't get enough of watching Anthony Davis and his Spiderman arms seeming to reach 10 feet to grab the ball like a sticky web. His hands are incredible, but he be starring on Erik Etherly's poster after that dunk Etherly threw down on him in the fist half. That was something.
Lamar is next, and they are even better on paper than the Greyhounds. Then, we face They Who Must Not Be Named ...