Tonight, a young but talented Arkansas team came in and tried to upset #2 Kentucky with their version of 40 Minutes of Hell. It didn't work.
For Arkansas, they deserve a lot of praise. They are a very tough-minded but young group of players who lack the size they need inside. They work extremely hard on defense and try to stay in your grille the entire game, but tonight, the size and talent deficit, plus the added difficulty of having to try to upset a top two team that hasn't lost at home in 44 games, was just too tall a task for this young, talented, well-coach, but ultimately unsuccessful Arkansas team.
Kentucky took the Arkansas press and made mincemeat of it. When Arkansas threw up a zone, the Wildcats made threes. Anthony Davis' arms seemed 15 feet long as he blocked threes, twos, everything but free throws. He also dunked. He dunked a lot. I don't know how many, but of his ten made field goals, I'd bet seven of them where flushes.
But it wasn't just Davis. It was Terrence Jones, who blocked five shots himself. Darius Miller shot the ball well, Doron Lamb less so but still pretty good. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was everywhere, all the time. Marquis Teague was dropping dimes and making high-percentage shots. Overall, it was just a good old time for the Wildcats, and not so pleasant for the Hogs.
- You might think Anthony Davis' career high 27 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks would be good enough to win the game ball, wouldn't you? And of course it is, are you kidding?
- But Marquis Teague's 9 assists, to go with 7 points, 4 rebounds and two steals gets him a first-class honorable mention. If Davis' game hadn't been so nearly perfect offensively and defensively, I would have given it to Teague, because he played perhaps his best game of the season. He just got it on the same night as Davis.
- Terrence Jones looked largely like the Jones we remember from earlier this year. He took the ball strong to the hoop and rebounded. He played like a man -- 13 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was also excellent. His numbers don't accurately describe how impressive he was. He was a 6'7" ball of screaming energy and skill, and his numbers don't reflect the level he helped his teammates get to.
- Doron Lamb seemed to come out of his slump a bit today. He didn't shoot it great, but he shot it fearlessly, and that's the main thing when you are having some shooting woes -- just keep shooting when you're open and don't force it. For the most part, Lamb did that.
- Darius Miller was wonderful in the first half, back to his complementary self in the second. Miller scored, but didn't rebound that well. 11 points and 2 rebounds. Not bad.
- Kyle Wiltjer played well in his 15 minutes, scoring 4 points and getting 2 rebounds. Kyle is getting tougher on defense, and he is deadly on the pick and pop.
- Overall, the team played very hard, and very successfully. The defense was stifling, and in the first half, it was indomitable.
Not so superlatives
- 3-point shooting was pretty bad -- 3-11 for 27%.
- That is all.
Overall, there just isn't much to criticize. Kentucky controlled this game from tip to horn, and was never in jeopardy of serious competition. When you defeat an opponent that completely, you have done all that anyone could ask as a fan. I'm sure Coach Cal will find plenty of fault with this performance (and there surely is some, despite my unwillingness to be critical), but as a UK partisan, you have to like what the Wildcats brought tonight.
Next up -- the Alabama Crimson Tide. I'd just about guarantee you things will be different against them, but we'll worry about that later. For now, it's an impressive win for the Wildcats.