The Cancun Challenge is certainly providing a challenge for the Kentucky Wildcats. Not only did the Sam Houston St. give us plenty of challenge, but the Cleveland St. Vikings also proved tough enough to challenge the 'Cats -- for a half.
Nice effort by the Vikings of Cleveland State. They out-hustled and outworked Kentucky for most of the game, and refused to be bullied or pushed around, matching UK's physicality inside and proving that hustle will offset talent most of the time. The Vikings were tough, gritty and determined. Unfortunately for them, they weren't big enough or skilled enough to handle the Wildcats.
This was an ugly game by any measure. Tons of fouls, players pushing and shoving, two intentional fouls, turnover after turnover. Ugly, ugly basketball.
Cleveland State could not throw the ball in the ocean from the beach. They were ice-cold from everywhere, but UK kept giving them the ball before they could get off a shot. I can't wait to see the stats on this game, they should prove instructive.
But in the second half, the Wildcats began to take care of the ball and force the Vikings to beat them without a bunch of extra possessions, and that wound up being too tall an order for the shorter Cleveland State team. After the first five minutes of the second half, the game was really no longer in doubt, and Kentucky improves to 5-0 and advances to the championship round of the tournament, while the Vikings move on to the consolation game.
More after the jump.
Here are my observations:
- I sure hope Patrick Patterson's injury is minor. He didn't come back after he apparently tweaked an ankle. At least, I hope that's what it was.
- Ramon Harris played another excellent game, and by the minutes he's getting, it's clear that Calipari is falling in love with him just like Gillispie did.
- Big Cuz had another good game, but once again, he is weak with the ball when he gets trapped.
- Daniel Orton played well again. Blocks galore, some points in close, lots of good stuff.
- Eric Bledsoe played really poorly for most of the game. He got better very late, but he turned the ball over a lot.
- John Wall was OK, but I though this wasn't really one of his best efforts. He seemed out of control a lot.
- Perry Stevenson gave some good minutes.
- Jon Hood hit an open shot and absolutely played his best game so far.
- Darius Miller was fine, but I wish he had been a little more under control.
- This was a really rough game in spite of all the fouls. Most of the fouls were absolutely good calls, and even if the officiating was uneven at times, I thought it was OK. I am not a big advocate of "letting them play." A foul is a foul and it should be called.
- Nice three at the end of the first half by Josh Harrellson. It was a difference-maker.
- I really wish I knew if we were ever going to hear from Liggins or Dodson again. I think they have slipped into the Calipari Triangle.
All in all, this was a most unsatisfying game. There was very little of the kind of play that I had hoped to see on offense, and the defense, although competent, was just okay. I was hoping for much more. Maybe I'll get that tomorrow.