This is one of those rare postmortems that doesn't require a lot of words. For maybe the third or fourth time this year against SEC foes, the Kentucky Wildcats simply dominated the opponent, this time the South Carolina Gamecocks. Kentucky improves their record now to 19-7, 7-5, and the Gamecocks fall to 13-12, 4-8.
South Carolina did not come ready to play today, and it is a rare game that Darren Horn does not have his team ready. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they could not have picked a worse day to be unprepared, as Kentucky put on a terrific defensive display in the first half, and on top of that, shot almost 60% from the field including 6-7 shooting 3's in the first half. Kentucky went into halftime with a huge 50-21 advantage. Even though South Carolina played better in the second half and really put a lot of pressure on the Wildcats, the game was simply too far gone for them to get back in.
As for Kentucky, the stats are going to be ridiculously gaudy, and frankly, they don't interest me much. What I did like very much about this game was the intensity Kentucky brought to the defensive side of the ball in the first half. Kentucky absolutely refused to let the Gamecocks score until they had a 15-0 lead. Yes, the 3-point shooting was impressive, no doubt, but what really got me excited was the intensity of the defensive effort. I'm still excited about that, frankly.
- Darius Miller was great. Not only did he score 22 points, he had 9 rebounds (2 offensive) and three blocks. Miller also defended his man very well, and had arguably his best game as a Wildcat. Game ball.
- Brandon Knight almost got that game ball. Why? He shot poorly from three, and he missed free throws, but he defended like a man. He didn't always win, but he fought through screens as though this was the NCAA championship, and he was very strong with the ball. Knight has finally figured out how to use that off hand to keep the defender from stripping him, and except for a couple of bad shots, I just loved his effort today. This was a big step for Brandon. Nine assists isn't all bad, either.
- Doron Lamb continues to be the microwave, whether it's off the bench or in a starting role. He just scores, and even though he still isn't strong with the ball, he is improving.
- Terrence Jones didn't play very well offensively in the first half, but he played very well defensively. He lost a couple of rebounds I thought he should have won, but he played like a man and even when he was whacked by Malik Cooke in a blatant flagrant foul, he kept his cool and did not react. Jones really picked up the offense and got yet another double-double with 19 and 12, and 3 assists in the bargain. Five big offensive rebounds should be mentioned as well.
- Josh Harrellson just continues to amaze me. I would be happier if he made some of the chippies he missed, but he plays the pick-and-roll defensively as well as any player I have seen (although he did get burned early in the game by failing to go with the roll man), and he is even getting good at it offensively. I like the fact that he makes simple plays and very few really bad decisions. You'd expect that from a senior, but basketball-wise, he is more like a sophomore.
- I thought Eloy Vargas did a nice job in limited minutes. 2 rebounds, both offensive in 4 minutes.
- DeAndre Liggins played well, and pretty much did what he always does. I loved the charges he took, and the defense he played.
Overall, this was a great game for Kentucky defensively, and that's all I wanted. If we had won 69-59 and played as well as we did defensively in the first half, I'd be just as tickled. One thing about this Kentucky team is that they have never been scoring-challenged -- Kentucky can score from every position on the floor. It's the other side that has given us some hiccups, combined with some hot shooting from our opponents. It's too bad this wasn't the Vanderbilt Commodores or Florida Gators instead of the Gamecocks, but who knows -- they might get a dose of this as well.
Here's hoping. Go, 'Cats!