Some wins are more important than others, and this one was made very important by the uncompetitive loss at LSU the other night. But the Wildcats demonstrated quite a bit of maturity today when, despite dominating the game for the first 20 minutes, the Wildcats backed off and allowed Missouri back into a ballgame that should have been a comfortable win.
As things often do, when Missouri got going, it was like a giant snowball running downhill. The Wildcats recovered, answered the challenge, then Missouri would mount another. This cycle went on until Missouri finally got the game within a single bucket, but Kentucky refused to let them get over the hump with good free throw shooting and continual domination of the paint. Then, Jabari Brown went nuts, and Kentucky could not handle him. The climax was a 3-point shot from close to 29 feet where James Young fouled him, and he made the bucket to get Missouri back within 3.
Kentucky then bowed their necks with a little help from poor 2nd half Missouri free-throw shooting, held on to win the game, 84-79.
This was a great comeback by the Missouri Tigers, and although they really didn't play their best game, they refused to go quietly and very nearly got themselves a big late-game win. Congrats to them on the effort, but I'm confident they will not be at all happy with the outcome, nor should they.
Final box score from UK-Mizzou: pic.twitter.com/igVBJajL1p— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) February 1, 2014
This was a big win for Kentucky against a quality foe on the road, and they did it mainly by playing well on offense.
Transition defense was so awful I lack a suitable adjective. Perhaps "scatologically bad" would be an invented substitute.
Conversely, Kentucky's half-court execution was outstanding. The sharing of the ball, the solid passing, few turnovers, the outstanding 3-point shooting. It was good all the way around.
Kentucky's free throw shooting was good enough. It wasn't great, it was good enough. 67% is fine, so nobody needs to complain about that.
Kentucky's half-court defense was pretty good up until late in the second half, when Mizzou got around our perimeter defenders and got to the basket, and foul line, with astonishing regularity.
So maybe team meetings are worth more than we think. Honestly, I think it just depends on the team. They work for some, and not for others. Based on this, I'd say it worked for these guys.
I'll have much more later after I eat and run a few errands. In the meantime, enjoy this big victory. This is actually a better outcome than winning at LSU and losing at Missouri, and even though we'd like to have both, this was a great test for this young team to which they responded very, very well.