How do you take an otherwise solid victory and turn it into a perceived negative? Easy. Get behind big like you have 4 straight games, and manage only 1 win. Still, for those who constantly repeat the old saying "There is no such thing as a good loss", they can comfort themselves with the converse - there is no such thing as a bad win.
You did know that the 'Cats were going to overcome that early deficit, didn't you? They have done it every single time during their visit to this Twilight Zone that they seem to be in now. Just as coming out flat seems to be the order of the day, so does the Big Comeback.
You have to wonder why Tubby Smith teams have started so slowly in the last few years. I recall the 2003 "Suffocats" used to go on 10-2 runs to start almost every game. Lately, we have been giving up 10-2 runs to start every game. Strange reversal of fortune. But I digress...
At one point, with 9:36 to go in the first half, we were 2-16 from the floor. If that had been the first time all year we had done something like that, everyone would call this one great comeback. But since this is the fourth time in a row we have seen this pattern, all Wildcat fans can do is shake their heads in bewilderment.
Still, you have to give the guys credit - they absolutely persevered and got the job done. A perusal of the statistics tells a lot about this game - really, they tell us why it wasn't a blowout instead of a hard-fought victory:
- UK held LSU to just under 40% from the field and 33% from 3-point range, while shooting 46% and 36% respectively themselves.
- UK shot 82% from the FT line.
- UK had only 11 turnovers, but LSU had even fewer with 8. LSU had 9 steals to our 4
- The big one - UK lost the offensive rebound battle 12-4 (worst in a long time) but UK outrebounded LSU overall 35-33.
- It was a UK opponent, for the first time in many games, who deliberately slowed the pace of the game.
- Kentucky pressed more this game than any game in recent memory.
- Derrick Jasper did not shoot the ball one time in 27 minutes.
- Joe Crawford, the team's leading scorer, had only 6 points in 27 minutes.
- We got very little production at all out of the 4 spot [This is news? -Ed.] - Thomas and Stevenson both put up bagels and only 1 rebound each. Perry had 8 pts and 4 rebs in 19 minutes, and played pretty well compared to recent efforts.
Overall, if you could forget about the first 9 minutes of the game, the 'Cats played reasonably well, although against an undermanned LSU team. I am not convinced LSU missed Davis much, they seem much more athletic and assertive without him. Still, it hurt their depth a lot, and LSU was visibly fatigued at the end of the game. Credit Smith for exploiting LSU's depth problem.
I guess one question among the UK faithful (among others) is, have what we learned what we are supposed to learn, or is this version of Groundhog Day just beginning again? We'll know Sunday at Vanderbilt, an even bigger game than this one. Win at Vandy, and the 'Cats move back into the top 25 and hope begins to creep back into the conversation. Lose, and this victory over LSU won't mean a thing.