Mississippi St. Bulldogs 55, Kentucky Wildcats 85:  Postmortem

Ryan Harrow had a huge game against the Bulldogs. - Andy Lyons

The Kentucky Wildcats defeat the Mississippi St. Bulldogs in a game that provided few surprises from either side.

Well, that game went pretty much according to script, and I suppose that the Wildcats had to have at least one relatively easy win at home this year. It seems like every game in Rupp has been a donnybrook, and I really didn’t mind this one being less than totally exciting.

Thanks to the Mississippi St. Bulldogs for their effort. They struggled, as they have all year, but it’s unfair to be critical of them as they have had a terrible time losing so many of their best players to injury and suspension. They played hard, if not well, and I really appreciated the fact that instead of yielding a layup to Brian Long at the end of the game, Colin Borchert blocked that shot, just like he was supposed to. He wasn’t giving up, and that’s something a basketball fan can really appreciate.

Kentucky played pretty well. At times, the executed marvelously in the half-court, and if the ’Cats can continue that kind of sharp execution, it bodes well for the rest of the season. Of course, there is some bad to go with that good, and we’ll get to that.

Player Observations

  • Ryan Harrow had a terrific game. There was hardly anything he did not do well. 19 points on 6-9 shooting, 3-6 from the arc, 4-5 from the line, 7 (!) rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers. Game ball.

  • Alex Poythress gets an honorable mention. In the first half, he was an absolute animal, scoring 13 points and 5 rebounds in the first 20 minutes alone. He wound up with 16 points on 7-11 shooting, 1-2 from the arc, 1-2 from the line, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 1 turnover. Super game, his second in a row.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein continued doing just what we need him to do – in fact, he is living up to his statement that he would "do what he is supposed to do." He did it to the tune of 12 points on 6-7 shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 blocks and 2 turnovers.

  • Archie Goodwin kind of reverted to form, which is to say, inefficiency and turnovers. He did some very good things defensively, which is good, but his offense was not great. He wasn’t out of control, though, despite the one charge he picked up. Overall, not horrible, but not quite what I was hoping for. 11 points on 4-10 from the field, 1-3 from three, 2-2 from the line, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 3 turnovers.

  • Julius Mays had kind of a normal game. He had 11 points on 4-6 shooting, 3-5 from the arc, 3 rebounds, 4 assists 1 turnover. He got a bang to the head by Poythress' elbow halfway through the second half and never returned, but word is that he is fine, just a stitch or three.

  • Jarrod Polson played a lot of minutes, and had a really good game overall, arguably his best game of the season. He defended, he played hard and he did everything a Division I player should do. Jarrod had 9 points on 4-5 shooting, didn’t shoot a 3, made 1-2 free throws, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal. He did have 3 turnovers, which was the only black mark on an otherwise sterling game.

  • Jon Hood played a season-high number of minutes. I don’t know how many, but it had to be 15 or more. He had 5 points on 2-4 shooting, 1-3 from the arc, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and no turnovers. It was really good to see him out there playing well, and I thought he defended particularly well.

  • Kyle Wiltjer, for the second game in a row, was ineffective. He spent all his time outside and really didn’t post anyone up. I’m not sure if that was by design or what, but he just wasn’t involved in the offense at all. When he was involved, he shot it poorly, although he did pass well. Kyle had 2 points on 1-7 shooting, 0-3 from the arc, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and no turnovers.

  • Sam Malone, Brian Long, and Tod Lanter all got a couple of minutes, and they had fun. As it should be.

Team observations

  • I still think Kentucky’s defense, particularly on the perimeter, is not very good. MSU got a lot of good looks they just missed. The Wildcats had better tighten that up for the Arkansas Razorbacks, because they won’t miss.

  • Kentucky outrebounded the Bulldogs offensively, but not by much. With WCS in the game, you’d think he would have had more rebounds than 6, but not this game.

  • 12 turnovers isn’t awful, but it’s still too many. At least five of them were inexcusable – terrible passes, dropping lobs, etc.

  • The Wildcats just don’t do the lob thing well. I think they threw about 5, and only one of them was successful.

  • I do like the energy and confidence we have seen in the last few games. That’s nice, and it really shows on Ryan Harrow.

  • Very pleased that Kentucky did not fail to fire in the second half. In other games, they have, but not this one. It was never, ever in doubt, and that makes me happy.

  • I thought the Wildcats started out a bit indifferently, but they got going about four minutes into the game and they gave a consistent effort from then on. There were no scoring droughts, no repeated defensive breakdowns. Transition defense could have been much better, though.

Overall, this was what we had hoped it would be – a convincing win over a weak team that Kentucky never allowed into the game. At this point in the season, that should be a given, but this version of the Wildcats has come along a little slower than the other three Calipari teams. Blame it on experience, blame it on whatever, but development has not been as rapid.

With that said, I think this team has not yet reached it’s peak, and it is on the improve seemingly every game. It is just possible that Alex Poythress has finally figured it out, Goodwin is making better decisions, and WCS is really becoming a good player.

We may not be a threat to win it all, but we are a threat to win any particular game, I think. We’re going to find out pretty soon.

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