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Kentucky 102, Sam Houston 92 -- Postmortem

Well, that was all kinds of fun.

Great game by the Sam Houston State Bearkats.  They really came in and gave it all they had, and it was almost enough.  This team can really shoot when they want to.  If they could bottle tonight and dole it out in doses throughout the year, they might win their league and make the NCAA tournament easily.

I have been watching college basketball a very long time, more years than some members of this blog have been drawing breath.  But I am sure that I have never seen two opposing teams back to back hit so many three point shots.  For both Miami and Sam Houston, they made the three look like a layup, or a free-throw.  In fact, I've seen lots of teams shoot a worse percentage from the free throw line than Sam Houston did from 20'9" -- 18-38.

I really don't know what to make of it, this amazing three-point shooting.  It's as if teams come into Rupp Arena, look at the basket, decide that it looks as big around as Jared Fogle before his Subway diet, and start filling it up like it fire hydrant unleashed on a blow-up backyard pool.

Kentucky's perimeter defense was pretty weak, okay?  I get that. But I don't know very many people who could stand at 25 feet and shoot 50% unopposed, let alone with other players running at them.  At least half of those threes were two to four feet behind the line.  Amazing.

Perhaps it's all the pre-season publicity that is driving this ridiculous opposition shooting.  Perhaps they just hate Kentucky.  Who knows?  Whatever it its, UK needs an antidote, and that antidote is better and sharper defense.  A big part of SHS' outstanding night was confusion and failure to communicate.  That has to get better.  But even all that does not explain the otherworldly, Hand of God shooting that UK has faced in the last two games.

But there is one really big positive -- both games were victories, and even historic three-point shooting was not enough to upset Kentucky.  I think that's important, don't you?  Can you imagine what would have happened last year?

More after the jump.

Here are my observations:

  • This is an approximate quote from John Calipari after the game:  "Daniel Orton was having a great game.  People ask why I didn't play him more.  You know why I didn't play him more?  Because the other kid [Cousins] was a beast!"  Cousins was a beast.
  • He may have been a beast, but Cousins has got to become stronger with the ball.  He was very weak with it tonight.
  • Darius Miller had a very nice game offensively but only one rebound.  Yes, I know Cousins soaked up most of the rebounds, but Miller has got to do more on the glass.
  • What a 3-point shooting outburst from Bledsoe.  I really don't know what to say, except, "Well done!"
  • John Wall and Eric Bledsoe combined for 12 of Kentucky's 23 turnovers.  That's much too high a number.
  • John Wall played pretty well, but he seemed out of control and unfocused to me.  He is much better than he played tonight.  He played hard, but not smart.
  • Ramon Harris gave us five rebounds in 12 minutes, and a huge play that led to a Cousins dunk that stopped a run.  Calipari truly loved what Harris brought tonight, and said so.
  • Daniel Orton payed well, with four blocks, two rebounds, an assist and a steal in 10 minutes.
  • UK dominated SHS on the boards, 48-33.  That was a big difference.
  • Patrick Patterson did what he always does -- play great. 8-9 from the field, 1-2 from the arc, 9 rebs, 1 block and 2 assists.  That may not seem spectacular to you, but it does to me.
  • Calipari is not at all happy with this team.  But he will be.
  • SHS shot 38% overall, and UK shot 60%.  And the margin was 10.  The three is a great equalizer.
  • 19-29 from the free throw line is not good.
  • No Darnell Dodson.  No Josh Harrellson.  No DeAndre Liggins.
  • The team was gassed after this game.  But the Bearkats were almost falling down from fatigue.
  • DeMarcus Cousins was asked after the game if he had ever seen three-point shooting that good in high school, and he said (paraphrase) "Yes, once.  John Jenkins.  He plays for Vanderbilt."  Fair warning from the Big Cuz.

This was yet another strange game in a series of strange games.  I sure do hope we can get our minds right by the time we face Rider on Saturday afternoon.  UK has terrific talent, and they are winning almost exclusively on talent and not on execution, either defensively or offensively.

If Kentucky is going to live up to their potential, they must do better.