This was the game John Calipari and I feared. It didn't turn into a loss, as it well could have, but it was exactly the kind of rough, physical affair that last year's Kentucky team was vulnerable to, and this year's team looks even more unprepared for.
Congratulations to Sean Woods and the Morehead St. Eagles for an outstanding effort. Woods is coaching a style of basketball meant to resemble the game that Kentucky used to play under Rick Pitino, but I don't remember those Wildcats ever getting quite that rough. Still, he has a bunch of new players, so better rough than timid, I guess. The rule, "Fouls negate hustle" doesn't seem to have translated to them yet. But they made big shots, played very tough and rebounded the basketball like you are supposed to. That's the big reason they were in this game until late in the second half.
Kentucky looked timid, unprepared, and often refused to engage in this game. That's one reason why, from a teaching standpoint, this game was worth every Wildcat fan's curse, stomp, and scream of frustration. This tape will be replayed over, and over, and over again. Its value cannot be underestimated. It was painful to get, but hopefully it will be worth it.
- Archie Goodwin had a very good game. He made plenty of mistakes (4 turnovers) and probably could have been credited with a couple more, but he also was pretty much the entire offense with 28 points, 12 of which came at the free throw line. 8-13 shooting, 4 assists, 3 blocks. Game ball
- Nerlens Noel had another great game defensively, but he missed so many free throws that it really hurt the team. Noel had 11 rebounds,but only 3 of them were offensive, to go along with 9 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 6 blocks and 3 turnovers.
- Julius Mays had a quality game, although he didn't shoot it well. He did make a big three that pushed the lead out to a level that gave the beleaguered Wildcats some breathing room. He seemed to have a calming effect on Archie Goodwin when he was in the game. 11 points, 6-7 free throws, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and no turnovers.
- Alex Poythress had some good moments on offense, but he didn't play well defensively at all. What he did do was rebound well (8 rebounds, 3 offensive), although he lost as many offensive rebounds as he corralled. Alex made all his free throws (8) and 6-12 of his shots for a total of 20 points, and 2 turnovers.
- Jarrod Polson played a solid game, and helped Kentucky win. He didn't do anything special, or impact the stat sheet in his 13 minutes other than a couple of free throws, but he didn't turn the ball over a single time and he defended pretty well.
Not so superlative:
- Kyle Wiltjer made a ton of mistakes in every facet of the game, and he winds up here not because he did anything extraordinarily poorly (other than defense, which was loathsome), but because he needs to play much better than this in every way. 9 points, 1-5 from 3 and 4 rebounds.
- Willie Cauley-Stein has really started to struggle after a fast start. Tonight, everything he did seemed to turn out wrong. He was out of position,dropped rebounds, bit on fakes, took poor shots, and just didn't do enough with the time he had. But he did wind up with 4 rebounds, a couple of points, an assist and a block.
Overall, this game was painful to watch. Morehead committed a staggering 32 fouls resulting in many stoppages of play. There was a lot of wrestling and rough play, and although Coach Cal was undoubtedly happy to see his team learn what it takes to win in major college basketball, from a fan standpoint it was a downright nasty game. There were a few moments of elevation by Goodwin, Poythress and Noel, but the best thing I can say about this game is that we won, and I don't think anybody got hurt.
Kentucky did shoot 75% from the line (no thanks to Nerlens Noel), and that is really why they won this basketball game. They did have good moments on defense offset by more failures, and Calipari will be most displeased with the overall effort the team gave.
Finally, this from Jeff Drummond:
Calipari says he needs another team to get up into Cats, grab & foul them a lot. "I know there's one more team we play like that." *wink*— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) November 22, 2012
This is funny now. In a month, it could be depressing.