Missouri Tigers 83, Kentucky Wildcats 90 (OT):  Postmortem

Uncle Julius! - USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky defeats Missouri in overtime, winning one of the biggest games of the season and coming back from a 13-point first half deficit.

Holy, crap, what a basketball game! So help me, I was ready to give up on this team after the first ten minutes. I thought it was going to be another Florida or Tennessee affair. But then, somehow, the Wildcats knocked a 13-point bulge for Missouri down to four.

Then the second half happened. All the players that didn’t really participate in the first half came to life in the second. Archie Goodwin started it off by scoring seven quick points. Then Julius Mays got involved, and lo and behold, we had ourselves a nip-and-tuck ballgame.

Kentucky managed to get out to a seven-point lead at the 9:14 mark and held it until the 7:25 mark in the game, gaining it back a couple of times before the game got tough again with about 5:00 left in the game. It was nip and tuck the rest of the way, going into overtime where the Wildcats finally prevailed by a final tally of 90-83.

I really don’t know what to say to Missouri. They played really hard, did a lot of good things, and arguably had a great opportunity to win this game. To be fair, Kentucky had the momentum throughout the entire second half, and Mizzou in general, and Phil Pressey in particular, found ways to stay in the game and close enough to win. Unfortunately for them, the Wildcats were just too much at home.

Player Observations

  • The game ball is no contest. Many players had really good games, but one was head and shoulders above the rest, making huge shot after huge shot, big play after big play. Julius Mays had 24 points on 6-12 shooting, 4-8 from 3, 8-9 from the line, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and only 1 turnover. Game ball.

  • Alex Poythress was the player we saw against the Duke Blue Devils, the player we thought we had when the year began. He played one of the best games of any player this year, and in any other game would have won the game ball without a thought. 21 points on 8-10 shooting, 1-1 from the arc, 4-6 from the line, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a partridge in a pear tree.

  • Archie Goodwin was great. He was the player that we have been hoping to see, and even though, at times, he drives us all a little crazy, he was fantastic tonight. 18 points on 7-12 shooting, 2-3 (!) from 3, 2-4 from the line, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal 1 block, but 7 turnovers. He had fully half of Kentucky’s total turnovers, and although this was his second good game in a row, he really needs to fix that.

  • Kyle Wiltjer played the fewest minutes he has played in a long time, and he was not very effective tonight. He managed 4 points, all from the line, on 0-2 shooting and 0-1 from the arc. He had 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 turnover, although that turnover wasn’t his fault.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein may not have scored a lot, but he did a lot of good things and, in many games, would have been the player of the game just for his effort and hustle. 7 points on 3-7 shooting, 1-7 from the line, 12 rebounds (4 offensive), an assist, a steal, and 7 blocks. He was within 3 points and 3 blocks of a triple-double.

  • Ryan Harrow once again had a very good game, even an outstanding one. He didn’t shoot the ball great, but he didn’t shoot it bad and he was very aggressive, particularly in the first half, where he had 12 points. 16 points on 6-14 shooting, 0-2 from 3, 4-4 from the line, 8 (!) rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal and only 3 turnovers.

  • Jarrod Polson played, but he didn’t play much, only 9 minutes. He was 0-2 from the field, although the shots he took were good ones.

  • Jon Hood played a couple of minutes, but didn’t impact the box score.

Team Observations

  • Kentucky is still a poor defensive team. They just don’t do a good job in the half court most of the time, although they do try very hard. WCS is getting better at blocking shots, and it really showed up this game. But the ’Cats had way too many breakdowns.

  • The offense is really starting to be threatening. When Goodwin is even a marginal threat to score from the perimeter, it really opens things up for Poythress, Harrow and Mays.

  • I have to be honest – when you watch Kentucky play, you don’t think of them as an NCAA Tournament team. But then you look at the score and wonder how they got that done. This team is a lot of things, but they are not quitters, and they are starting to believe in themselves. At the end of the day, if they believe in themselves, that’s almost enough for me.

  • I still can’t say Kentucky has an identity, but they are beginning to come into some kind of focus. They really got after the 50/50 balls tonight and came up with most of them. If that turns out to be their legacy, it will be one we can all appreciate – even admire. "Blue collar" is the phrase that comes to mind after tonight.

This was a huge win. It was huge. It was huge not because the pundits say it was, and not because I say it was. It was huge because this was the game right in front of us, and we won it. That’s it. When you are a team living on the edge of NCAA Tournament interest, the only game that matters is the next one.

Living in the "precious present" is hard. It is hard for a team, and it’s particularly hard for fans. But since we are here, and the present is pretty sweet, let’s just enjoy it, shall we?

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