My impression of this game is that we came into Houston and got beat by a much better team, at least tonight. From the very start, it was clear that the Cougars wanted this one more, and they absolutely earned it. Congratulations to Houston on a well-played game, and our apologies for that hard foul by Crawford. That isn't how we do it here in Kentucky.
So, to the Wildcats. This looked like the game you play when life has gone wrong, and you are at the end of your rope. Kentucky hung their heads almost from the opening tip. Meeks provided some early energy, but the rest of the team looked very much like they had just returned from a friend's funeral.
As a Kentucky fan, I have seen this sort of despondency only once in Wildcat history -- Eddie Sutton's last season. The sad fact is, if we don't get healthy and start playing better, the Cats could have an even worse record this year than the 13-19 debacle of 1988-89.
Joe Crawford played angry, and despite his scoring, played relatively poorly, especially on defense. Oh, his offense was fine, but defensively, he repeatedly missed assignments and failed to switch on the pick and roll. I lost count of open threes that resulted from that. And he turned the ball over, and over, and over.
Ramel Bradley sat out the last 10 minutes or so of the second half, and I think I know why. Mark Coury was wide open on a post up, and Bradley refused to throw him the ball twice when he had a short, easy pass from the wing, and wound up taking a challenged jumper while Coury stood there waiting to receive the pass. The Houston guy figured out what was happening, and quit guarding Coury. Immediately after that, Gillispie sat him down and never called his number again. That kind of thing has no place in college basketball, and Gillispie was right to do what he did.
Michael Porter simply didn't have it tonight. He stank. The end. Hopefully, games like that for him will get fewer, and games like Saturday will come around more often.
Ditto Ramon Harris. He looked lost. I lost count of the times he wound up missing an assignment and got a three shot in his face.
Jared Carter played surprisingly well. Good for him. Maybe he will move a few spots away from the bitter end of the bench.
Jodie Meeks did all he could do, and looked pretty good for a guy who has been off for 6 weeks. But when the adrenalin wore off, so did his game.
Perry Stevenson continues to be unimpressive. I really expected more from him, but he was a disappointment tonight.
I'm glad the Wildcats didn't totally give up and made a run at the end, but I can't feel good about it.
Houston is a pretty good basketball team. Without Patterson, it seems that Kentucky is pretty bad.
I know many of us are feeling embarrassed and frustrated. I know for sure I am. But once again, I am reminded of the song by Rodney Atkins:
Keep on going, don't slow down
If you're scared, don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there
I would pretty much say what we are going through now, fanwise and teamwise, is hell. It feels like hell to me, anyway. But at this point, engaging in bitter recriminations makes no sense at all. Instead, I think I'm just going to grit my teeth, force a smile, and prepare for the next contest. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sooner or later, something is likely to click, or we are going to get healthy. But one way or the other, I guarantee we will have some occasions to cheer this year, even if they may be few and far between.
Finally, I am reminded of a scene from The Ten Commandments, and Cecil B. DeMille's narrative, which I shall adapt for both the team and the Big Blue fans:
They cannot cool the burning desire for victory in their souls, nor shade the scorching fury of their opponents scorn. All about is desolation.
Learning that it can be more terrible to try than to fail, they are driven onward, ever onward, through the savage gauntlet of the season, where fans and teams are cleansed and purged for a great purpose. Until at last, at the end of human sanity and strength, beaten into the very dust from whence they came, the metal is ready - for the Maker's hand.
Gillispie is now faced with the unenviable task of leading Kentucky out of the desert, for we are surely deep in a waterless wasteland basketballwise. I wish him luck. I will be there to help and cheer, just as I was tonight, as ugly and as horrible and as totally futile as it all was. I will be there to whatever end.
I hope you will go with me.
Update [2007-12-19 13:14:44 by Truzenzuzex]: Hey, we got a link from the Wall Street Journal's Daily Fix blog. Cool. Thanks, guys. Welcome, Daily Fix readers, and have a look around. We may not play basketball very well at Kentucky these days, but we can blog with the best of 'em.