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Boston University Terriers 57 @ Kentucky Wildcats, 91: Postmortem

Josh Harrellson was a force around the basket against the Boston U. Terriers.
Josh Harrellson was a force around the basket against the Boston U. Terriers.

Now that was much better, wasn't it?

Congratulations to the Boston U. Terriers for coming in and playing hard against a Kentucky Wildcats team that simply outgunned them tonight.  Boston U. was down a major contributor tonight, but they did all they could and gave Kentucky all they could have wanted in the first half.  But UK came out on fire in the second half and put the game away with almost 11 minutes remaining in the contest.

What was interesting about this game was the contrast between the first and second half.  In the first half, it looked like all my worries in the open game thread were coming true -- Knight was having trouble figuring out when to score and when to pass, they Wildcats were giving up scoring opportunities on the dribble drive in favor of the kick, and the defense was struggling to communicate again.

But then came the second half.

In the second half, the Wildcats went berserk on defense, creating 8 turnovers and scoring 12 points off those turnovers, versus 3 in the first half.  One of Kentucky's weaknesses all year long has been a failure to create turnovers on defense, and that seems way more than passing strange.  This team is quicker, more athletic, and just plain more capable defensively than most teams they play. 

The problem is, they just haven't figured out how to play defense well.  They are constantly out of position, constantly allowing themselves to be beaten and allowing the opponent to force help, and constantly taking plays off defensively.  Right now, Kentucky is 313th in the nation at forcing turnovers.  That's one reason that offense is coming so hard.

Finally, at least for one half, we saw how the team performs when they create turnovers.  Kentucky scored 51 points in the second half and shot 63% from the field.  You do that, and I'd bet the farm you win every game.  But the turnovers accounted for 24% of those points.  Add that to the paltry 7-point lead that UK had going into the half with only 3 points off TO's, and you can see that's most of the difference.

Comments and observations:
  • Josh Harrellson.  I honestly tried hard to find someone, anyone, who had a better game.  I could not.  Game ball.  Harrellson missed one shot all night, and had a double-double, 12/11.  Best game of his career.  Threw in 1 turnover for good measure.
  • Brandon Knight -- He had a good shooting game and a decent passing game, but he still hasn't figured it out yet.  The good news is, scoring like he did makes up for a lot of mistakes.
  • Terrence Jones -- Does he keep on impressing, or what?  If it's not getting rebounds or hitting amazing floaters, it's making threes and leading the break.  What a versatile player.  His emotion seemed a bit subdued tonight, though, but not enough to keep him from earning another double-double.
  • Doron Lamb -- Lamb was the spark in the first half.  He kind of faded into the background a bit in the second half, though.
  • Darius Miller continues to struggle, but he did some good things out there tonight.
  • Eloy Vargas just couldn't seem to do what he needed to do.  He's coming along, though.
  • DeAndre Liggins just keeps leading this team in floor burns, scrapes, and bruises.  He is like former Duke guard Steve Wojciechowski, only with actual talent and athletic ability.  And unlike  Wojciechowski, I really love his attitude -- he is absolutely a Spartan out there.  He never gets mad, never gets chippy, never reacts wildly, he just plays basketball.  Get hit in the junk by an elbow?  No problem, just give him a minute.  Liggins is a warrior in the best possible way.  I wish UK had five more of him.
  • Coach Cal -- How hard is it to coach after you just lost your mother?  I have no idea, but he was at his best tonight in every way.
  • Jon Hood played well tonight in limited minutes.  He is getting closer to being a real contributor.

The second half of this game got me more excited than ever about this team's potential.  Whatever Calipari said to motivate them, he needs to bottle it and file patent papers right away, because the difference between the first half and the second are the difference between a second-round exit and a Final Four run.

Go, 'Cats!