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Kentucky at Florida -- Post mortem

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Morning came today as it has for the last few million years.  Nice to know you can count on consistency in the really important things, even if you can't count on it in the little things, like basketball games.

I was wrong to despair last night.  Believe it or not, it was a trip over to The Cats Pause that brought me out of my funk.  So many fans finding silver linings in every cloud simply can't be wrong.  I am still feeling very, very blue and quite critical over this loss, but at the end of the day, we still have to move on.  Morning comes, whether we want it to or not, even when it brings more articles like this and classless smack-talk.

After reading some of the comments in various places today, I began to feel like I had maybe watched a different game than many other people.  But reviewing the stats, the game actually looks better on paper than it did in real life.  We outrebounded the Gators both offensively and defensively, got up 9 more shots, we turned the ball over only 15 times (decent when you are averaging over 17), had 8 steals, and shot 90% from the free throw line.  How did we lose?  We allowed the Gators to shoot a very high percentage from the floor.  That, and Kentucky was 6 for 23 from three point range.  Oh, yeah -- there was that 29-18 foul disparity, but we earned most of that.

Watching the game, I thought we played very poor defense.  It wasn't that we didn't hustle or try, but most of Florida's shots were wide open and unopposed.  That just isn't acceptable to me.  Florida ran a very efficient offensive scheme that our defense was simply unable to cope with.  Anyone who watches basketball knows that when you play Florida, you have to deny Calathes the basketball as much as possible.  Kentucky didn't even try to do that, or if they did, it was so ineffective that you wouldn't have thought it.  To add insult to injury, we negated our hustle with repeated fouls, sending the Gators to the line for 28 free throw attempts.  Gillispie, at least, apparently did see the same game I did:

UK Coach Billy Gillispie blamed defense. Or lack thereof. "Absolutely," he said. "We didn't guard the ball. We didn't defend the ball screen. We didn't help each other. We didn't talk. We didn't carry out assignments."
I don't know, maybe it's just me.  I see a team out there playing hard, but every time I see Patterson and Harris double-team a guard 16 feet away while a big sits wide open under the basket, I wonder why.  Maybe it is simply an uncorrectable problem with this team, and we'll just have to live with this weird scenario for the rest of this year at least.  I have seen it happen over and over again, it just boggles my mind.  I have learned to live with Ramel Bradley being both our best friend and worst enemy at the same time.  At least he is consistent, and it sure is nice to have a guy who is happy to take (and make) big shots at the end of games.  But then we have Joe Crawford, who went back to his old ways on defense, simply failing to show the fire and tenacity he did against Foster and Jamont Gordon.  This night, he also felt the need to prove to us all that he really could just bomb away from the perimeter and proceeded to jack up eight three pointers, of which he managed to make 1, for 12% shooting.  But as I recognize Crawford's faults, I should also recognize that he lead the team with 4 assists (5 turnovers, though) and 2 steals.  Jasper had a great night rebounding the ball with 10, but produced a ziggy in the assist department.

I do wonder if it is ever going to occur to our team that the best way to improve our lousy offensive efficiency is to get the ball inside to Patrick Patterson.  Yes, Speights played him well last night, but in the end, Patterson still had 15 points and 8 rebounds, despite multiple missed layups and cramps.  But our perimeter guys just can't, or won't, get him the ball.  He was getting frustrated last night, and rightfully so.  Pat also has to learn to take the ball stronger to the hole, and throw in a head and shoulders fake now and again to keep defenders honest.  Coaches in the SEC are pretty smart, and they have figured out that Patterson just goes straight to the rim like he did in high school.  You have to have a few more moves in college, and Patrick hasn't quite figured that out yet, but he will.

As for the Gators, well, you have to admire the poise their young men showed out there.  They ran Donovan's offense perfectly, and executed sharply.   If Kentucky could execute only half as well as the Gators offensively, they would find themselves celebrating a lot more victories than dealing with losses.  They made a lot of freshman mistakes, and still wound up on top, which to my mind, speaks volumes about where Kentucky is in the overall scheme of things.

But then, there's that silver lining again.  Jasper and Meeks are getting healthier, and didn't appear to sustain further injury in this game.  They won't be 100% for Tennessee next week (it takes longer than 3 days to regain your conditioning), but we are unquestionably better with them than without them.

So where do we go from here?  Well, the mighty Vols are rolling into town on Tuesday, and they look every bit the juggernaut they were predicted to be right now.  If the Cats can find a way to win that game, it really will be impressive, and this loss will feel a lot less painful.  But sooner or later, this Kentucky team is going to have to win games.  Close doesn't count in basketball, and while effort means a lot to the fans and the coaching staff, it means zip to the bottom line.  I am getting very tired of "moral victories," and I don't want any more of them.  Ramel Bradley and I are on the same page, it seems:
"I'm not satisfied with having a great effort and fighting until the end," Bradley said. "We've got to start winning these games."
I can't help you with that, Ramel, as much as I want to.  There are some things you just have to do yourself.