This is one of those games that we are used to seeing this year -- a poor half followed by a quality half of basketball by the Kentucky Wildcats. There are some things to like, some things to hate, and many questions yet to answer.
Thanks to the Marshall Thundering Herd for their effort today. Marshall is a much better team than Lipscomb, Portland or Samford, and it showed in many ways today. Marshall is athletic and has a couple of really capable scorers, and they do a good job in post defense and can score inside and out. Kentucky, however, makes it really hard to score inside because of their length, and today at least, really hit the offensive glass. Marshall is capable of much better than this, but much of the credit for their tough game goes to Kentucky's defense.
Kentucky defended very well, for the most part. Alex Poythress was not very good defensively, and the team transition defense was again really bad. With that said, you can't argue with a sub-30% shooting percentage inflicted on the opponent. Marshall isn't nearly that bad, and nobody has held them down as far as Kentucky this year.
- The game ball could go to a couple of players. Nerlens Noel had his first double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to go with 2 steals and 2 blocks, but he wasn't particularly efficient and picked up four fouls. My choice is Ryan Harrow, who had by far his best game as a Wildcat with 23 points on 10-17 shooting, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals to go along with only 2 turnovers. He was exactly what we have been needing at the point, and showed an unexpected amount of toughness today.
- Kyle Wiltjer once again was cold from the outside, and didn't have a great game. But he had 6 rebounds (3 offensive) to go with 8 points, and I thought he defended fairly well, which is usually his bugaboo.
- Julius Mays was also cold from the outside, going 0-5 from the arc and 1-7 overall. But he had 5 big assists and no turnovers to go along with 3 rebounds and a couple of steals.
- Archie Goodwin continues to struggle from the field with a loathsome 4-17. He missed layups and even dunks today, but he did make all but one of his 11 free throws. 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Unfortunately, a team-high 4 turnovers hurt his line.
- Alex Poythress really seemed to be the invisible man on offense and defense. He managed 8 points on 3-5 shooting, and he led the team in offensive rebounds with 5, 9 overall, as well as an assist, a block and 2 turnovers. I think Calipari will be pleased with his effort on the glass, but less so with his continued defensive struggles.
- Willie Cauley-Stein had an excellent game 4-6 from the floor, 7 rebounds including 4 offensive, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 blocks. I don't think you can complain about that. He struggled in transition both ways, but other than that complaint, he was super.
- Jarrod Polson and Twany Beckham also contributed, Twany with a sweet assist at the very end of the game to Wiltjer.
- This team is just not ready for good teams yet. They still struggle to do the simple things, they break down too often on defense and if not for Noel and Stein's presence, things would have been worse. Against better teams, I'm not sure UK won't struggle to score.
- The high screen is the one play that the opponent could not defend. They need to do it more often, but also the spacing on the floor is really inconsistent. Goodwin could not find any lanes early, but when the spacing got better late he was much more effective.
- The staff has got to work with Goodwin on his shot - he just doesn't go up straight and it messes him up a lot. UK has also got to get him better lanes to the basket by spacing the floor.
- UK still seems to struggle with the zone. Why not put Wiltjer at the free throw line, and then you can go through him? I don't get that.
- At some point, Noel has to take some face-up shots. His stroke is improving from the line, and sooner or later, he's going to have to take, and hit,the shot they are giving him. Probably not quite yet, but that development needs to be a priority.
- Have we decided not to use the DDM? I didn't see many DDM sets, and I seen no reason why not.
- I don't know how much help Camp Cal has helped. Some, I guess, but so far, not as much as I'd hoped. My expectations are probably not realistic, though, it usually takes 4-6 weeks for any program in athletics to have measurable effects. It did for Harrellson, at least.
- Free throw shooting was excellent as a team at 21-27 (77.8%), but 17% from 3 will not get it done.
- Kentucky continues to handle the ball pretty well, and excel in blocks and steals.
That's what I have. Be sure to add your observations and commentary below.