I'm taking a big, deep drought of the "John Wall as Player of the Year" Kool-Aid today, because he earned it. Blue raspberry. Mmmm. Good.
Congrats to the Indiana Hoosiers for playing a great first half of college basketball. Maurice Creek is definitely the real deal, and Tom Crean has this team playing at a high level considering how few true big people they have on the roster. Indiana is a team on the rise, and Tom Crean is quite likely a future Hall of Famer. This series will get much tougher for UK in very short order, I predict.
I loved the atmosphere in Assembly Hall today, it was truly excellent. The fans turned out in droves to see this great game, and they deserve all sorts of kudos for creating a terrific atmosphere for this storied rivalry.
There is no doubt whatsoever that this was the best game Kentucky has played this year, by a very wide margin. Almost everybody got involved offensively, due in no small part to the outstanding play of John Wall, which I'll talk more about later. I was very pleased by the way the 'Cats communicated and shared the basketball, and I have no doubt that Calipari was pleased as well. What the coaching staff will not be pleased at was the poor defense in the first half. To Coach Cal's credit, he motivated the team to a much better defensive second half, which resulted in the kind of dominating victory that should reasonably have been expected by a team as talented as this UK group.
More after the jump.
Here are my observations:
- John Wall showed today that he can learn lessons, and will trust his teammates. This was, barring his relatively poor defense, simply an outstanding game for the superstar freshman. I could not be more pleased with how he played, and how well he passed the basketball. When Wall plays like that, I don't think Kentucky can lose. Penetrate and kick, and let your teammates score. Great stuff.
- Eric Bledsoe has really worked hard on his shot, and it paid off in spades today. He was white-hot from the perimeter, and played by far his best game as a Wildcat. Bledsoe played great defense on Maurice Creek in the second half, and that was a big reason that UK won going away.
Patrick Patterson was again the man, and I am glad to see him get more touches than he did in the UConn game. He made the most of them. And he did a great job on the glass as well with eight boards.
- DeMarcus Cousins was absolutely a beast in the post today. Easily his best game, competition consideration included, that he has played so far.
- Ramon Harris -- Five big rebounds, three of them offensive. I still wish he could score, but he brings a lot of good energy to the team when he is in, and his judgement is very sound.
- Daniel Orton was a little off this game. That's okay, he has been a difference maker in most games, and he is entitled to a clunker now and then.
- Darnell Dodson played better today than in a long while on both ends of the floor. We need his length and shooting.
- Darius Miller should have done more on the boards, but he had the second most assists on the team with four. Seven points, four assists, three rebounds and zero turnovers in 18 minutes is a good line.
- Our team rebounding was really awesome, and blockouts were terrific.
- Our team defense was not awesome. It was pretty good in the second half, though.
- I loved Calipari giving a disappointed Cousins noogies to cheer him up. It worked perfectly.
- Don't know what Cal said at halftime to change our defensive fortunes, but he should bottle it and keep it with him at all times.
No question, the best offense UK has played all year, and decent D in the second half. There are a lot of good things and fewer than normal bad things to take away from this game. I am very excited to see some really good, high-quality basketball, and see it for more than five or ten minutes. Any UK fan who saw this game has got to be pleased, not just with the outcome, but with the process.