Vanderbilt Commodores, 74 at Kentucky Wildcats (1) 83:  Postmortem

Could we have the 2012 Wooden Award winner right here? He certainly made a statement today.

Today, the Kentucky Wildcats took on the second stiff challenge in a row. Purely and simply, they prevailed on the strength of a spectacular game by Anthony Davis.

Congratulations to the Vanderbilt Commodores. I have to admit, there was a point in this game when I began to doubt myself, because I was convinced that there was simply no way, barring lights-out shooting or some kind of serious regression from Kentucky, that Vandy could win this game. Kentucky did almost everything I said they needed to, and Vanderbilt simply would not go away. Festus Ezeli was genuinely excellent, and even though Kentucky smothered John Jenkins, he still managed to make several ridiculous, challenged threes that reminded me more of Chris Lofton than anything else, and you can trust me when I tell you that is as high a praise as you will ever likely see from me for a three-point specialist. All this is a sign of great maturity in this Vanderbilt team.

But Vandy wasn't just about threes, they did a lot of terrific things, especially off the bounce. I tell you this Vanderbilt team is a sleeper, and is finally starting to round into the form that got them picked in the top ten pre-season, and that is good to see. Yes, this was a loss for them, but I doubt three teams in America could have come into Rupp Arena and given this mighty UK squad a game this good. Forget victory -- nobody, and I mean nobody, has better than a puncher's chance against UK this year in Rupp Arena. But Vanderbilt just gave an extremely impressive effort, and if there is such a thing in this universe as a "good loss," this is surely one.

Superlatives:

  • Giving anyone other than Anthony Davis the game ball would be an act of criminal negligence, malfeasance, and unethical incompetence. Given that, this is one of the most foregone conclusions of the year for me. 10-11 shooting, 8-9 from the line, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks and a partridge in a pear tree. Player of the Year performance, and abject fear bordering on terror for every likely opponent in America. Game ball.
  • Marquis Teague will not bewilder you with his stats, especially considering an unacceptably high 4 turnovers, but Teague did a bunch of really good things that will not show up in the stat line. Good work, not great.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hyperextended his left knee, and I'm really glad he fouled out when he did -- that injury, although minor, can expose the knee to serious damage right after it happens. I was totally uncomfortable when he came back in, and I'm really glad he left early. But he played a great game, with the exception of some uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns. 8 points and 8 rebounds in a foul-truncated game, but his one-man fast-break is pure John Wall.
  • Darius Miller shot the ball badly in the first half, but man, did he pick it up in the second. Has anyone noticed that he has a real flair for the dramatic?
  • Terrence Jones played just okay offensively, but well as usual defensively. I was not really happy with his intensity, particularly in the first half. He did better in the second.
  • Doron Lamb didn't have a great offensive game, but he really locked up John Jenkins in a way that had me cheering. I don't care if lamb scored a point, Jenkins is a big, dangerous shooter that is barely within the ability of Doron Lamb to guard. In my mind, he was wildly successful against him, even though Jenkins scored 18 points.
  • Eloy Vargas played, drew a controversial (due only to an overrule) foul, and made one free throw. End of story.
  • 85% free throw shooting. Awesome, baby. I love that.
  • 57.1% from the field -- for the game. Can you say, "efficiency," boys and girls? I knew you could.

Not so superlative:

  • 3-point shooting. Kentucky shot 20%. What is it about Vanderbilt that makes us shoot like crap from three?
  • What does Marquis Teague have against making layups? And if he doesn't start using that left hand, he can forget about being drafted in the first round. Those reverse layups get sent to the third row in the NBA.
  • Dumb fouls from Lamb and Miller were annoying.
  • I thought Kentucky's intensity was second-best today.

Overall, a great victory. My complaints above are totally nit-picky, but that's really a good thing -- this team can play better, and that means that the "peaked too early" complaint is bogus, as we all suspected.

Anthony Davis is, at his best, one of the most dominant players in college basketball. Today, he stood astride the entire game, a giant of unapproachable skill and terrifying efficiency on both ends. This was one of the most dominant performances by a basketball player I have seen since the days of Kevin Durant, and when you consider both ends, it may be the most dominant performance since Shaq graced LSU's starting lineup.

Georgia Bulldogs up next, at home this time. Go, 'Cats!

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