There are games that you live for. This was one of them.
Congratulations to the Vanderbilt Commodores for an outstanding game of basketball. Vandy fans will tell you that they played poorly in the first half, and we must agree because it is true. The Commodores made a ton of errors in the first half and discovered, to their ultimate woe, that they could not guard Kentucky one-on-one. It was a lesson painfully earned.
But learn it they did, and in the second half, the Commodores showed the proper respect for the talent of Kentucky by going to a zone defense. It didn't change the ultimate outcome, but it did change the entire complexion of the game, giving Vandy enough room to maneuver. And maneuver they did, shooting lights-out from the perimeter, including a 28-footer from John Jenkins (who has no theoretical limit on his range) that raised the challenge to a level unseen by the Wildcats in a long time.
I cannot praise Vanderbilt's determination enough. They were singularly amazing, and I have rarely seen a team so willing to accept instruction from their coaching staff as Vandy's players did. I have nothing but respect for this Vanderbilt team, and had this outcome been reversed, I would not be disappointed. This was a tough game from a tough, mature team, and frankly, the last thing I want to do is disrespect such a determined. and skilled, opponent.
- Marquis Teague, game ball. I haven't even looked at the stats as of this game, because I don't have to. He was simply the best player on the floor tonight. Game ball. No doubt.
- Terrence Jones was up and down, but to my view, more up than down. Good game, loved his defense. I would give anything to see him be more oiffensive-minded.
- Doron Lamb missed a couple of open looks early, but he made them when it was needed.
- Darius Miller made a three that was arguably the most important play of the game.
- Kyle Wiltjer made one big shot, and no matter what the stats say, I thought his defense was great.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist really had a tough game, but he made one huge shot and did an amazing job of keeping the Wildcats involved in this game.
- (Note: Added later) I'm not sure how I could have failed to mention Anthony Davis, who was, once again, fantastic. Without him, who knows how many points Festus Ezeli would have scored, or how Kentucky would have fared trying to keep Jeffrey Taylor at bay.
Not So Superlative:
- Look, this was a tough game against a worthy foe in their arena. We won. I have no criticism to offer.
I don't really think it needs to be blown out of proportion, but tis is a demonstration of why this Kentucky team is not only the best team in the nation, but the team that is now a prohibitive favorite (sorry, Syracuse fans) to win the NCAA Tournament. This statement does not require a bunch of exposition, it simply is what you see.
Vanderbilt is a very good team. If they ever get themselves consistent, they could be a major factor in the tournament. But let's be honest -- they are not as good as we are, and if they cannot beat us at home with fans hanging from the rafters, the best they can hope for is to be assigned a different region.
In the end, Kentucky was great. Are you surprised? I'm not.