It may seem strange considering all the programs in the SEC that are, at least record-wise, superior to the South Carolina Gamecocks, but because of the presence of Devan Downey, I didn't have that Zen-like feeling of serenity during tonight's game that had become so familiar to me throughout this season. Devan Downey is a singular college talent, and it seems that he finds something extraordinary when the jersey on the opponent says "Kentucky."
The Gamecocks did not play a great game and shot the ball poorly, although Kentucky's improving defense was certainly part of the reason. But South Carolina never gave up, even though undermanned, and midway through the second half had me doing some high-definition swearing at the television. But then, just as suddenly as the tide turned in favor of the men from Columbia, it receded, leaving only empty sand as the Wildcats easily finished them off in a game that was not nearly as uncompetitive as the score indicated.
Kentucky now goes to 27-1, and inches to within three wins of a 30-win season, something the Big Blue Nation has not experienced since 2003. Although this team will surely get to 30+ wins, it would be nice to get there in the regular season, even though it would require a sweep of Kentucky's remaining opponents. No matter what, though, this is certainly a great feeling coming off last year's 22-14 NIT train-wreck.
More after the jump.
- DeMarcus Cousins was a beast again. Yet another double-double. He gets my game ball.
- Patrick Patterson was equally terrific. He made almost every shot he attempted, and weirdly enough, the ones he missed were dunks or layups. I'm thinking Patterson is back in form.
- Darius Miller had a really good game overall, making shots, blocks and plays.
- DeAndre Liggins, again, was terrific. He just keeps getting better, and once again, there were no 50/50 balls when Liggins was near -- they were all 100% his.
- Nice second half by Eric Bledsoe. For some reason, he looked really out of sorts in the first half.
- John Wall played okay. He didn't shoot the ball well, and he continues to turn it over at a prodigious rate, but he makes big shots and big plays. His defense continues to improve, and that is a very good thing.
- Nobody can defend Devan Downey. That guy is just ridiculous. And if you try to pass the ball with him in the area, you are crazy. Yeah, I know, UK did that, and he made them pay.
- I love what Daniel Orton does, and the really cool thing is, we haven't seen half of his potential.
- Much better offensive rebounding tonight for the 'Cats. In fact, Kentucky was great at getting to loose balls tonight. They lost a few, but they got way more than their share.
- I loved Calipari inverting the guards and posting them up. I think Kentucky should do that more.
Overall, this wasn't a magnum opus, but it was a victory that was convincing enough that the Big Blue Nation should be quite satisfied. South Carolina is the kind of team that can go on runs, and they did, but Kentucky had even bigger runs. At times, UK showed flashes of brilliance, as well as moments that made UK fans bury thier head in their hands. But I think this team is actually getting better. And now would be a really good time for doing that.
The Tennessee Volunteers loom in Knoxville after only one day of rest.