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Mississippi State 66, Kentucky 57: Postmortem

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You have no idea how much I hate writing postmortems on losses, and this is the third in a row.  Two at home.  Sometimes this gig can be really disheartening.

Congratulations to the Mississippi State Bulldogs.  What a display of three point shooting and shot blocking.  Obviously, they can't expect to continue doing this forever, but it was way more than enough to easily handle a Kentucky team who simply cannot shoot a three pointer unless Meeks takes it.  Well done to Mississippi State and Rick Stansbury.

I am frustrated right now, but after the ridiculous display of three point shooting in the second half, I am confident we could not have won this game under any circumstances.  Consider the pitiful sight of seeing Perry Stevenson trying to guard a 48% 3-point shooter on the perimeter.  It almost caused me to break down and cry.  And Johnson just toyed with him, then launched a 26 foot shot that never touched the rim.

It's a shocking thing to run up against a team that goes nuts like that from three.  It leaves me with little to say, because quite frankly, most of it is irrelevant.  You cannot guard a team like MSU that far from the basket, especially when your best players are 6'9" tall.  It is what it is.

It's tempting to rail on the coach, but quite frankly, I can't think of anything he could have done that he didn't do.  When you plunk in the deadly-but-athletically challenged Landon Slone hoping for some 3-point looks, you aren't surprised when the superior athletes leave him in the dust for layups.

For the record, here are my observations:

  • The offense looks completely clueless.  If we can't get it to Patterson and Meeks, nobody seems to know what to do.  Frankly, I am now convinced Liggins has been getting it right all along -- he knows that you have to do something, even if it's wrong.  Liggins had a spectacular game that will be remembered by nobody.
  • The defense was strong in the early part of the first half, then went straight to pitiful.  In the first half of the second half, the defense was outstanding, but in the last part of the second half, it was irrelevant.  MSU started hitting threes so far away, you would have needed an airline ticket to get there.
  • Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson were absolutely dominated by Varnado.  Period.  He sucked up their shots like a black hole consumes loose material.  It was otherworldly.
  • Thank God we finally screened for Meeks in the second half.  It didn't matter, though, we couldn't do it enough.
  • You would think when Patterson was triple-teamed, there would be open men.  Somehow, the 'Cats managed not to have any.  I think this is a new and novel way to play offense.  Not sure I like it, though.
  • Fans booing is bad.  I'm disappointed in them.  Look, we all hate this loss, but losses are part of basketball, even at Kentucky.  If you just can't cheer for the team, or critique them, just shut the hell up.
  • Poor Ramon Harrris.
  • This loss hurts us, and is quite possibly unrecoverable.
  • Some good news -- We don't have to play this team again, unless it's in the SEC tournament.
  • Some bad news -- The schedule gets harder from here.
  • Some horrible news -- Defending only Meeks and Patterson is a great way to play the Wildcats.  Just forget the rest of the team, as they can't seem to score even if you leave them unopposed.
  • I have no idea how Gillispie fixes this.  If he can, he is a genius.

I would love to go on a tirade, but quite frankly, there is not that much to be critical of.  We got outplayed by an utterly unconsious team.  They were making every shot they looked at, and you can't guard that.  I saw a ton of good challenges, but every time we were late, they simply shot the ball in.  And if time ran down, they moved out to 26 or 27 feet and shot it from there like I would shoot a layup.  Then Varnado would reject Patterson, or Stevenson, or whoever every time they got an open look.  Nothing to see here, really.  Move along.

Give MSU credit, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation.   We didn't lose this game.  MSU beat the tarnation out of us, and what we did was irrelevant.  It was every bit as dominating a victory, in the end, as North Carolina's was.  Moaning and groaning is irrelevant.  Shooting is irrelevant -- we are incapable of shooting well enough to beat them with Varnado in the middle.

Tonight, these guys were the Borg, and we have been assimilated.