Rather than do a graded review of the game last night like I did before, perhaps just some overall impressions today.
As you may have figured out from my lateness to the blog, I had a very busy morning (and afternoon) today. But still, we should look back at last night's performance with an eye toward Gardner-Webb tonight.
First of all, I don't think the team played particularly good basketball on either end of the floor, but we played much better defensively than offensively. I haven't looked at the statistics yet, because I don't want this to be about statistics, but about what we saw.
The first thing that stuck in my mind is Mark Coury. Now, it's over-obvious to say he had a good game, because a double-double in Division I college basketball is the very definition of a good game. What I liked about him last night was his intelligence. He didn't do stupid things with the ball, or try to do things he wasn't capable of. Some people call this "playing within oneself", but to me, that is just simplistic to the point of meaninglessness. Coury knows what he can do, what he cannot do, and what he can probably do both offensively and defensively. He stuck with the first and the last, and simply omitted the penultimate. That sounds easy, but every day I live, I attempt to do things I cannot do. I attempted to run up six flights of stairs this morning, for instance, and I fell on my face. Predictable -- I'm not 25 anymore and I'm not in good enough shape to attempt it. But the mind was willing -- the body just couldn't deliver.
That's where Coury's brilliance lies -- keeping his ego out of it, and focusing on the possible. Compare that with Ramel Bradley, for instance. Now, I'm not picking on Ramel, he just didn't have his best game last night. But Ramel is always attempting the highly unlikely -- brilliant bounce passes, behind the back dribbles on a quick stop, etc. Ramel simply cannot, or will not, understand the difference between the possible and the almost impossible -- the line blurs for him. That is holding him back from being the best he can be. For my money, he took two steps back last night. He didn't remotely resemble a point or a lead guard.
You want to know why Kentucky's offense sputtered? Because Ramel was looking to shoot first and pass second. There has to be a player that is willing to sacrifice shots to get other players the ball, or the offense becomes one-dimensional and sputters.
This team is doing one thing I particularly like -- they are putting forth a great effort on defense. That doesn't necessarily mean they are playing great defense, but the effort is there.
I love Coach Gillispie getting almost everybody minutes last night, and the insertion of Kerry Benson was a revelation -- I had no idea that guy was that good. Now, keeping that in perspective, good against Central Arkansas and good against, say, Louisville, are two different things. Still, he looks like he may be able to help this team from time to time, and I didn't expect that from a first-year walk-on. Mike Williams played well last night, and what really ticks me off is that he had defenders on his hip several times while Bradly chucked up a three. That just makes me unhappy.
Overall, our performance last night can best be described as "uneven", and for my money, that flatters it unmercifully. Leadership? Absent. Effort, present and accounted for. Shooting? Absent. Trying to keep the tempo up? Present and accounted for. Passing? Absent. Decent post-ups and shot blocking? Present and accounted for.
Tonight, we must find a way to even out our performance. Our foe is weak, but we must start making some progress. So far this season, I have seen very little progress except in individual games -- Crawford and Coury are by far the most polished and solid so far, to my great astonishment. Why can't Ramel, who has drawn significant praise from the coach early in the year, show us his best? When will we see it? When will we see it more than one game in a row? When will we see our "lead" guard?
I will not be able to do a preview of Gardner-Webb today, but we will have an open thread later before the game comes on.