Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats welcomed their SEC arch-rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers, into Rupp Arena for what turned out to be another physical game that saw a ton of fouls and some great defense by both teams.
First of all, let's get one thing straight -- Tennessee worked incredibly hard on defense and was in Kentucky's grille all night long. The problem was, the Wildcats were just far too sharp executing on offense, and Kentucky's defense, as good as Tennessee's was, was incomparable. The Vols simply could not get shots off inside the arc, although in the first half, they rained three-point shots on the Wildcats making six or seven 3-pointers in the first stanza alone.
In spite of that light's out perimeter shooting by the Volunteers, Kentucky was up 13 points in the first half despite a stretch of cold shooting late in the half. The second half saw more of the same, except fewer threes and better Kentucky defense, if that is possible. In the end, Tennessee really did all they could, they simply don't have the skill or personnel to defeat a Kentucky team playing at a high level in their own gym. It's easy to look at this and say UT mailed it in, but they fought and scrapped like their collective mother's honor was on the line with every possession. Kudos to Cuonzo Martin and his Vols for the intensity and toughness they brought, but they were simply overmatched.
If this were horseracing, the Daily Racing Form for Kentucky would once again read, "Much the best," and the entry for Tennessee would simply read, "Failed to menace." The Vols tried hard, but simply could not find a way to compete with Kentucky.
- Everybody. This was a team effort, and every bit of it was superlative. I can find very little to criticize and much to praise. The game ball is shared by everyone who participated.
- Terrence Jones had another strong game, and his line does not reflect his effectiveness. Jones was tough, physical and created many rebounding and scoring opportunities for the team.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is getting a new nickname from me -- Micheal the Menace -- Because that's what he is, a menace. You can't beat him on offense, and you can't beat him on defense. He plays with an intensity that is reminiscent of Dennis Rodman in his heyday with the Chicago Bulls, except he is a far, far better basketball player right now than Rodman ever was. His intensity cannot be matched by anyone in the college game, and probably even in the professional game. It is a marvel to watch. We are all witnesses.
- Doron Lamb has played better, but he is singularly responsible for keeping Kentucky's 3-point streak alive. Nobody else could scratch.
- Eloy Vargas played big-boy basketball tonight. He blocked shots, rebounded, and did everything we could ask him to do except score -- and we don't need him to do that.
- Marquis Teague continues to play great basketball. 4 assists, 2 turnovers, and many more good plays.
- Anthony Davis has missed only 2 shots in the last three games, but failed to get a double-double. He did have seven blocks, though, and almost every one of them resulted in a Kentucky basket.
- Darius Miller played well, but didn't shoot well. He did a lot more than the box score indicates, though.
- I thought Kyle Wiltjer played his best game as a Wildcat where he didn't score a lot. He got 5 rebounds, a block, and was very physical in a way he has not been all year.
- The team went 1-10 from the 3-point line. I could criticize that, I guess, but honestly they didn't need but that one. Think about this -- a team that gets 22% of their points from three on the season gets only 4% of their points from there in a game they win by 25 against an SEC rival. To me, that's a drop-dead amazing statistic.
As far as negatives go, well, UK let Renaldo Woolridge rain threes on them the entire first half, and missed many open threes. That's about it.
All in all, there is just nothing really to criticize from a fan standpoint. It was a dominant, almost frightening performance by a team that is beginning to look like it is far better than their nearest competition. Of course, I say that before Kentucky has played any of the leading SEC teams even one time, so you can probably take that with a grain of salt. If we do this same thing in Nashville to the Vanderbilt Commodores, I suspect I'll have a lot of people jumping on that bandwagon, but for now, you could be forgiven for being skeptical.
In the end, though, this was a game that saw a very dangerous team get completely dominated inside the paint on both ends of the floor. There is no doubt that Tennessee played better than the score indicates, but anybody in the country would have been flattened by Kentucky tonight.
Next up: The South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, where they wrecked Kentucky's last undefeated SEC season recently.