Well, I hope the UK Men were watching.
If you want to shut down a shooter, there is only one way when you play man to man defense. Someone has to get in their grill, stay there, stick with them tighter than their uniform, and every time they touch the ball, you make them fight for every last inch. If you are not sure how to do that, go back and watch the game film from this one. Against Auburn, Morgan Eye hit 11 3-pt shots. That's right, 11. Care to guess how many she hit today? ZERO. She was the focus of the UK defense today, and they shut her down. She ended the day 3-7, with all her points coming from inside the arc. The best 3-point shooting team in the SEC? They went 2-20. The defense in this game was not just good, it was superb. Let's look at it.
UK started off hot, jumping out to a 23-4 lead at the 10:06 mark of the first half. They were swarming Missouri and not letting them breathe. Then Mizzou went on a run and reeled off 9 straight points, until UK shut them back down again and leveled the lead at 14. It was honestly the best I have seen them at stopping a team from coming inside, and Missouri had no second chance points in the first half. UK's few mistakes were on switches and back door cuts by the guards that kept the Tigers in the game as much as they could.
In the second half, Mizzou started out ok, but soon fell back into the traps and stops of that "Forty Minutes of Dread" and they began to show the signs of being tired. That 14 point gap was as close as they could cut it to, and several times falling behind near the mark where the game ended at 69-43. Just another really tough game by the defense, with the offense clicked along at 38.8% from the field, and 100% from the free throw stripe where UK was 12-12. They took everything that Mizzou would give them and didn't waste many trips. UK only committed 11 turnovers, with five of those coming inside on scrums in the paint on Walker and Stallworth when Mizzou would collapse on the middle. 6 TO's by the ball handlers is an amazing improvement by Kentucky.
The Wildcats only had 3 unforced errors the entire game. And you could tell they were going to be getting after the Tigers early on. Just an amazing game on both sides of the ball. The scoring was balanced with Stallworth and Mathies leading the way as per usual, with 17 and 14, respectively. UK needed this game and they showed it. This puts them on top of the SEC standings as they are 4-0 in the SEC with 25% of the schedule completed. They are joined at the top by Tennessee who won an overtime victory against Florida earlier today. At 16-1 UK is off to a blistering start, and looking towards this week with Mississippi State and Auburn. Both those teams are taking it on the chin today as this is being typed. UK should be able to push deep into January without having to fight off another unexpected loss in SEC play.
There is no TV for the Miss. St. game on Thursday, so Sunday against Auburn at 2:00PM on the SEC Network will be our next live game thread. If you are not yet watching this team, you are really missing out on some good basketball. They play hard, fast, and sometimes really smart, but always with direction. Matthew Mitchell is earning his paycheck folks.