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Kentucky Wildcats 58, Vanderbilt Commodores 56: Postmortem

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So the Kentucky Wildcats, despite a flashback to 1992 and the Laetner shot that broke Big Blue spirits throughout the world, ripped the hearts, bloody and still beating, from the chest of Vanderbilt Commodores everywhere.

The Vanderbilt Commodores gave Kentucky all they had.  Neither team could shoot the ball from the perimeter, so it was an ugly-looking game with lots of fouls, lots of physical play from both teams, and lots of big plays from both teams.  John Jenkins made an amazing three to put Vandy back in the game after UK took a 4-point lead in the game.  Great effort by the Commodores, overall, despite uncharacteristically poor shooting.

This was an important game for both teams, and for Kentucky fans, this is sweet revenge for the way that the Commodores have been able to largely dominate Kentucky for the last four years.  It wasn't a 40-point blowout that Wildcat fans might have wished for in our wildest dreams (payback for the depredations heaped upon UK a couple of years ago in this same arena), but it was more than enough to put a big smile on my face and a celebratory libation in my hand.

More after the jump.

Observations:

  • Kentucky was spectacular in their perimeter defense today.  Spectacular.  It was what I had been asking for all year, and both John Wall and Eric Bledsoe really guarded on the outside.  That block by Wall at the end of the game on John Jenkins  was just the culmination of a complete defensive effort by the UK back court.  Awesome defense, men.  Awesome.
  • DeMarcus Cousins did a good job, but he didn't get beastly until near the end of the game.  That's always a good time for the beast to come out and play.
  • Patrick Patterson is back, and back huge.  That dagger three was a soul-stealing, will-breaking shot that will rank right up there with Nazr Mohammed's unlikely 10-foot layup to beat the Commodores back in 1998 as one of the biggest shots from a UK player in Nashville.
  • Where was Darnell DodsonDarius Miller was mostly invisible, but that steal and assist to Patterson in the first half was just a hint of his remarkable athleticism.  If he ever figures out how good he is, Miller will be a star.
  • DeAndre Liggins again did some really good things, and his hustle was the same as always.  He didn't always play smart today, though.
  • You may not have thought Daniel Orton played well, and for a fact, he missed free throws, but he intimidated Ogilvy and was a major paint presence.  I love this kid's upside.
  • Bledsoe needs to get control of his emotions.  I never thought that I would be worrying more about him hurting the team than Cousins, but right now, I do feel that way.  I could strangle Dicke V. for his moronic comment that Bledsoe's obvious pushing foul was anywhere near a flagrant.  What the hell is it with these announcers begging for flagrants against Kentucky?  I think Mitch Barnhart should get on the phone and give ESPN an earfull.
  • Vandy did a great job on the boards.  Kentucky, not so much.
  • Calipari was right to criticize his late time-out.  That was not a great coaching move.
  • I thought the officials did a pretty good job.  A foul on one end was pretty much a foul on the other.  For the most part.  Yes, there were missed calls on both ends, but there always are.
  • This team is really tough in late, close-game situations.  Really tough.
  • John Wall has been big in every close win the Wildcats have had this year.  Without Wall, I think you could make an argument UK would have at least 4 more losses.
  • Even having a bad game, John Wall is indomitable, and has an impact virtually every time.
  • Kentucky's offense looked really ugly tonight.  Give the 'Dores credit, I guess, because I can't think of another reason.
  • Perry Stevenson came in late game and played well, if for a short time.  But he helped.

You may think that this was just another win in a long string of them, and to an extent it was, but make no mistake -- this was the game that the Connecticut Huskies and North Carolina Tar Heels should have been -- a real valuable, top 15 victory against a really good team on their home floor, and as a bonus, it was a win on the most hostile home court in the SEC.

They don't get bigger than this, so say it with me one more time ...

GO, CATS!!!