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Liberty University at Kentucky -- After Action Report

This is better.

No doubt about it, the Wildcats played much better last night in every area of the game.  The players looked much more comfortable with one another, the coach seemed to be more animated and less distracted than during the last game, and even though Kentucky's youth was on display for all to see in terms of inexperience and youthful mistakes.  But that was certainly to be expected, and will improve as the season progresses.

It is difficult, given this game, to figure out what shape the Wildcats will take this year.  Coury and Porter started both halves, but Coury only logged a total of 4 minutes, and Porter 14.  We wound up seeing Kerry Benson twice as long as Coury, and given the fact that AJ Stewart logged starter's minutes last night, I think we can expect to see much more of him than we saw in the first few games.

So now, I am going to take a look at the game the way it appeared to me.


Kentucky's offensive execution was 100% improved from the last game, but it is still far short of what it will take to compete for the SEC championship and even a spot in the NCAA tournament.  But we saw several moments of outstanding execution, so we know that the Cats can do it -- they just need to do it more often.

The Cats wore out the low post, especially in the second half, and it paid huge dividends both for Patterson and the rest of the team.  Patterson finally found all the aggressiveness, power and athleticism that made him such a coveted player out of high school.  His lane presence was awesome, and even though it was against a weaker foe, I think it is a harbinger of what we can expect in the SEC.  Patterson displayed the full range of his offensive skills, including ball reversals and inside-outs (a really beautiful one in the second half to Crawford on the left wing for three), face-ups, and dunks.

Another wonderful thing to see was Patterson's motor -- it was every bit as good as advertised.  His nonstop posts, spins, and reposts to the ball side were Hansborough-eque in their strength, frequency and consistency.  It won't be that easy against the SEC big guys, but his energy will wear a few out.  Patterson is going to log mega-minutes this year for UK, because without him, we have little to offer in the area of post play.

I loved how the Wildcat guards and wings worked to get a good post entry.  What I liked less were their actual entry passes, which are still far too careless.  In many cases, the play only succeeded because of Patterson's extra effort.  That has got to change.

Kentucky's 3-point shooting was poor, and mostly because too many of them were taken outside of the offense, causing players to be off balance and not square to the basket.  That will hopefully improve as the offense becomes less schizophrenic.

What I didn't like was the failure of the players to recognize switching defenses, like when they trapped the first pass in the half court in the middle of the second half.  There are many other examples of that, which resulted in very poor spacing and two defensive players able to guard three UK players.


Holding any team to 33% is a achievement, and whether it was just the Flames cold shooting or Kentucky's stellar defense, that is something to be proud of.  Kentucky still has way too many defensive breakdowns and confusion about who is supposed to guard whom when.  I saw at least 10 complete breakdowns where players would leave a shooter wide open to return to their man, who would then calmly sink the shot or use the space to take the ball to the hole and score, or draw a foul.  That is pure brain damage -- you never, ever leave an open shooter like that.  Guarding the basketball is the first thing you learn about defensive execution.

Overall, I think the defensive execution was just as erratic as the offense.  Sometimes, it was strong, especially early in the first half.  Other times, it made me wonder what was going on -- players driving unopposed for layups, shooting unopposed threes when two Kentucky players were guarding a guy without the ball.  Weird.

AJ Stewart was the Minister of Defense last night, both in hustle and execution.  He got lost a few times, but he never failed to try to get back in position, where a couple of times the seniors seemed to just let the play happen.

We were bigger and stronger and it showed inside, but the Flames got way too many open looks for any coach to be happy with the defensive execution.


Wow, what a game by Stewart, Patterson and Bradley.  All three of those guys played by far their best game of the season, and AJ Stewart was the biggest surprise - 3 blocks and 2 steals to go along with 10 points, 4 rebounds and only 1 turnover.  Bradley had 10 points, 6 assists and a 3-1 assist/turnover ratio -- any coach in America would pat a player on the back for a line like that.  Patterson was unstoppable in the paint with 23 points, and his 10 rebounds were split equally between offense and defense, and get this -- 0 turnovers.

Alex Legion also played pretty well, as did Crawford.  Crawford shot it poorly from the arc, as did the rest of the team, but used his size and strength to score on numerous drives to the hoop.  Crawford's play may have looked a bit selfish to some, but keep in mind that two guards are supposed to do a bit of that.  Some will complain that he never looks to pass on those drives, and that is valid -- he needs to find a way to get the ball to better scoring position when he has too much opposition, and I don't think I have ever seen him do that.

Legion, on the other hand, just played like a typical talented freshman.  He needs to be a bit more selfish, because his favorite shot is inside the arc in the 10-16 foot range, and he needs to make that penetrating move to get in scoring position a bit more.  He looked a little tentative and tried a bit too hard to be unselfish.

The rest of the team gave a good effort, Porter in particular.  Porter is getting better at handling the ball, and proved again that you can't leave him alone on the perimeter, or he will burn you.


To say this is an improvement over Gardner-Webb would be a massive understatement.  This was actually recognizable at times as a Kentucky basketball game, and we saw some execution on both sides of the ball that should make us anxious to get to Saturday and see more.  If Patterson continues to improve, he may well turn out to be better than we thought, and given that most of us thought he was pretty good to begin with, that is really saying something.  I can only pray that the AJ Stewart we saw last night is the real AJ Stewart, and not just a one-night wonder.  If it is, the Wildcats' fortunes may have begun to take a turn for the better.

This game gives me back most of the hope for this season that the G-W loss took away.  I know the Big Blue Nation would love to see that continue.

Happy Thanksgiving, Big Blue Nation!  May the blessings of this holiday be with you and your families.