clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Randy among the Redwoods

Chalk one up to Jim Burr.

After his worst outing of the season, a game against Louisville in which the ole foul trouble bug plagued him early and often (and sometimes without merit), center Randolph Morris was back in a big way on Tuesday against visiting Santa Clara.

The Big Cat scored 15 first-half points, and overall established a career high with 13 rebounds to go along with his 23 points, in a 74-60 victory over the Broncos.

Thanks, Mr. Burr, official that whistled those phantom calls on Morris in the Freedom Hall paint. Apparently your lesson about how not to play defense with your arms or hands got through. Morris instead relied on his long arms and teammates to force the tall frontline of Santa Clara to hit shots rather than hit the free throw line.

And thank God for the effort, since senior Bobby Perry (0 points) and junior Joe Crawford (5 points on 2-of-7 shooting) were MIA offensively. The bench proved valuable again, with Jodie Meeks, Woo and Michael Porter sparking a rally in another lackluster first-half showing.

What worked

  • Defense, dawgs. The Kentucky defense again stood tall when it had to, holding the visitors to 2-of-12 from the three-point arc in the second half. For the season, UK's opponents are shooting 27% from behind the arc, a historic low. Will it continue against the Floridas, Alabamas and Georgias of the world? Probably not. But it's still good to see no regression on the defensive end even as the offensive growth is slow.
  • Perry Stevenson. The freshman jumping jack grabbed 5 boards and blocked a shot in limited minutes. His energy, like that of his fellow freshmen, is infectious.
  • Ball movement. Kentucky posted 19 assists on 26 made baskets, the most dimes since the win over Depaul in Maui. Kentucky's 19-14 Ast/TO ratio was also its best in some time.
What isn't working ...
  • Bobby Perry.  Seniors lead by example, and right now, offensively, Perry isn't cutting it. Unlike fellow seniors Woo Obrzut and Sheray Thomas, the team is counting on Perry's contributions offensively. He is, after all, a starter. But whetever adjustment Perry needs to make to get the ball in the cup, he needs to make it soon. At some point, even if just out of necessity, the freshmen -- Meeks in particular -- are going to eat up his minutes. As Tubby noted postgame, "The other alternative is to bring him off the bench. There's a lot of options."
  • Razor Ramon. The much-discussed Ramon Harris made his Big Blue debut Tuesday, playing one minute and getting fooled seriously on defense. Smith thinks Harris can help more this year than he can redshirting. I tend to agree. But it's clear that in Tubby's defensive schemes, catching up is hard work.
  • Rebounding. Simply put, this team will go nowhere unless the rebounding improves. While Santa Clara has a big front line, the Cats have got to make an advantage on the glass, not just break even. UK won the rebounding battle, 42-39, on Tuesday. But there's a long way to go. Continued ferocity from Morris would set a nice tone.
All in all, a solid win over a better-than-it-looks team. This win won't hurt UK's RPI at all come March. There was positive momentum on the turnover front, the assist front and the play of Morris. There was no movement on rebounding and getting off to better starts.

I'm starting to think a roster shakeup might be in order. Sit Perry for a game and start Stevenson. See what the shot blocking and extra rebounder does for you. 'Swat' produces more for his minutes than anyone outside of Morris, and while he lacks the stamina and bulk to play 30 minutes, something tells me the boost from Stevenson early will outweigh that of Perry's o'fer scoring.