It wasn't pretty. For a half, at least.
Kentucky, on Tuesday, having clearly spent the week since a 1-2 trip to Hawaii practicing defense, slugged their way past Bobby Cremins' College of Charleston squad, 77-61.
While Randolph Morris came up big again, scoring 17 and grabbing 8 boards, and freshman Perry Stevenson went a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor on his way to a career-high 14 points, the star of this Cats win was the team defense.
The Cats forced Charleston into 18 turnovers and 32% shooting for the game, a marked improvement from the bulk of the early season. Ramel Bradley and his mates also held the Cougars' leading scorer, Dontaye Draper to 15 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
While Kentucky's own 20 turnovers and mere 8 rebound advantage on the glass isn't exactly A+ performance, the Cats had a 50-point second half and rode junior Joe Crawford (15 points, 5 rebounds) and the youngsters to a comfortable win at Rupp.
Only Tubby Smith knows for sure what he wants (it's pretty clear to most of the fans watching that we don't understand what it is he's looking for) with Sheray Thomas and Bobby Perry combining for 42 minutes (and only 9 points on 3-of-10 shots), it sure looks like Stevenson got the message about the value of playing time. Stevenson was sensational in finishing, and even tossed in a steal at midcourt to boot.
It still looks to me like Derrick Jasper is the point guard of the now, not just the future. He makes a few mistakes, but he also has superior full-court vision and keeps the team moving forward at the basket, not just dribbling around the perimeter. But, again, Tubby is not known for his tolerance of little mistakes like missed assignments, throwaways and the like.
But while the seniors ostensibly will provide defense and experience, the slow start was the result of zero offensive production from the senior class. One wonders how Smith hopes to produce better defense against the North Carolinas of the year without abandoning offense in the process.
All in all, it was a gutsy performance by Tubby's boys, and he has to be pleased with the improvements on defense. I know I was.