Not exactly our finest hour. - Joe Robbins
Kentucky was thoroughly out-executed and outplayed tonight in South Bend by the Fighting Irish.
Well, that was without any doubt the very worst basketball game played by a John Calipari-coached team at Kentucky. There really is nothing good to say about what the Wildcats did tonight, so don't expect any accolades.
Strategically, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish played exactly the game they needed to play, and demonstrated to these young Wildcats that basketball is a team sport, not just an athletics contest. The Irish were intense on defense, and kept themselves calm and in the game at all times. They executed their offense with precision, aggressively rebounded the basketball, and as a bonus, they made almost everything they threw up. To be honest, though, most of their looks were wide open, and you are going to make a fairly high percentage of those.
In the case of Kentucky, their strategy was exactly the opposite of Notre Dame. They forgot what "team" means in favor of one-on-one play, they eschewed defensive intensity for half-effort, and they demonstrated no desire to accept contact and rebound through traffic. The Wildcats were constantly out of rebounding position, went for every fake, pushed off instead of moving their feet, refused to help each other on defense or trust the help when they got beat, and jacked up shots that only World B. Free could love.
Guess which strategy won out? If you guessed the Fighting Irish, congratulations -- and congratulations also to Notre Dame.
Basketball is a team sport. This was a great demonstration of how a team of inferior athletes defeats vastly superior athletes by communicating, playing unselfishly, and giving all-out effort on every play. Notre Dame never allowed Kentucky to get into transition, and instead of exploiting that by crashing the offensive glass, Kentucky was drubbed on the boards as they have been every single game where they played a quality team, and some where they didn't.
I'm certain that Calipari will maximize the tape of this game to educate the young Wildcats. From a basketball standpoint, this was an abject and total failure in every respect. No player on Kentucky's team gave a sound effort, even Julius Mays, who despite leading the team in scoring made many bad passes, got beat off the dribble, and took several very poor shots.
This team will get better, and losing to Notre Dame on the road is not in itself shameful -- it's clear the Irish are better than advertised and Kentucky rather worse. I actually agree with Dick Vitale's analysis that the point guard position is hurting Kentucky right now, and I don't believe Archie Goodwin is the answer. Maybe I'm wrong about that, too, because there is a lot of basketball left to play, and Calipari has won an awful lot of basketball games for me to second-guess him.
Anyway, that's the end of this lament. I need to have a late dinner and stew in my own juices a while. Plus, Petra and I both dragged a cold home from Sin City, and I think 12 hours of work is enough for me in my current state.
Hopefully, Saturday will be better.