This is the SEC, and road games in the SEC are always something to be concerned about. Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats came well prepared, and despite some anxious moments midway through the first half when Georgia looked like they might be ready to break form and shoot the ball well, the Wildcats dispatched of the Bulldogs comfortably.
Georgia came into this game understanding that it would be difficult, and they played really hard. The trouble was, Kentucky found the gaps in their zone defense, and as so may teams have found out over the last two years, zoning Kentucky is a really dangerous thing to do if they start making shots -- they just seem to spiral out of control, and a 1 point lead can suddenly turn into a 12-point deficit. The Dawgs gave good effort, but they are young and just don't yet have enough size and firepower to handle a top ten team, even at home.
Make no mistake, though, this Georgia team has some pieces, and is well-coached. If they can hang on to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Nemanja Djurisic for a couple more years, they have the nucleus of a team that can challenge for the SEC championship. They need to add some size and more shooting, but even though the Dawgs didn't look great tonight, the time is likely to come when this game will be much tougher for Kentucky than it was tonight.
For the Wildcats, the effort was there, and for the most part, so was the execution. There were segments of the game where I though UK kind of lost a bit of focus and played really below their capability. But unlike last game, this game showed signs of a young skilled team that is beginning to play like a less young, skilled team. There were moments tonight when I thought that Kentucky looked far and away the best team in the land. That would be followed by a couple of minutes that left me scratching my head -- just as it probably should be at this point.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wasn't the most flashy, or most noticeable player on the court, but trust me, he was, in the parlance of horseracing, much the best. 14 points on 6-14 shooting with 3 assists, 11 rebounds, a block, and one filthy, filthy dunk. Game ball.
- Darius Miller was very aggressive today, and if he'd have managed only a couple of rebounds, I'd have given him his second game ball in a row. Miller missed 1 shot all night, had 19 points, and was a perfect 4-4 from the arc. Really, really good.
- Marquis Teague's line (the part that I care about, anyway): Zero turnovers. Oh, yeah, and S-E-V-E-N assists. I think maybe that light has come on. He played really well defensively, as well.
- Terrence Jones didn't really play very well offensively, but I really liked his rebounding and overall effort.
- Anthony Davis had a good game. Unbelievably quiet on offense, but an otherworldly purple jumpshot eater on defense. Davis had a profound impact on the game with his 11 rebounds and 5 blocks, but I am a little surprised we couldn't get him the ball in scoring position more.
- Kyle Wiltjer had a good game in limited minutes, but he had a couple of tentative plays. But he's supposed to make shots, and he came in and ... made shots.
- Only the top 7 played. Nobody else. Second game in a row.
- Kentucky played good team defense, but they had some luck when they broke down several times and gave the Dawgs open looks that they just didn't make.
- I do think that this team really competed tonight. For the most part, they were focused and sharp.
- Team defense == excellent overall.
Not so superlative:
- Doron Lamb. Not sure what was up with him, but he shot poorly and just never got going.
- Marquis Teague's shooting. The only basket he made was one that he walked on, but the official didn't see it.
- Darius Miller's rebounding, which was ... bupkis.
- 2 steals? Seriously?
Calipari even sprung a surprise on us and trotted out a 1-2-2 zone on one possession that actually confused Georgia and worked. I suspect we'll see some of that again in upcoming games, but if you blink, you'll probably miss it.
Overall, I'm happier with this game than with the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide, but Kentucky still has a ton of room for improvement. Yes, I know some people reading this will say, "But we won on the road by 13!" Yes, but Georgia is also not the Syracuse Orange or the Ohio St. Buckeyes.
For the present, though, I think we have seen progress. That is a good thing. Next up: The LSU Tigers on the road Saturday.