Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats easily handled their fellow Kentuckians from Western Kentucky University, 81-66, in a game that was not as close as the final score. This was one of those games that you usually see between the overall #1 and the weakest #16.
This year, Western is the weakest 16 seed, but this WKU team is freshman-dominated and stands to be a favorite in the Sun Belt next year. This team has really developed under Ray Harper, and if they keep going like they are, they could be a major threat for a deep run in a year or two. I was very pleased by how my alma mater represented Western Kentucky University and the Hilltopper basketball program, who believe it or not, has a decent record against Kentucky, now 2-4 all time. Congrats to the 'Toppers, who represented themselves well and show great promise for the future.
For the Wildcats, nothing less than a convincing victory was expected. After the near-miss by UNC-Asheville against the Syracuse Orange, Kentucky fans could be forgiven for a few butterflies before their opening game in the KFC-YUM! Center. Fortunately, Kentucky showed that any trepidation was unnecessary and blew out to a 30-point lead midway through the second half, statistically ending the game with 9:42 left. Western made a big comeback, but by that time, Kentucky was avoiding contact like the plague and playing with no real focus.
- Terrence Jones looked like the Player of the Year. 22 points on 9 of 13 shots, 10 rebounds, and several astonishing finishes. Game ball
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist didn't have a great offensive game, but defensively, he was the truth. Whichever Western player was doing work drew MKG, and when that happened, work stopped.
- Anthony Davis had a good game with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks. Davis did a wonderful job avoiding fouls, but he also did not do some fundamental things well defensively. Note to officials: When a player hangs on the rim to protect himself from a fall, it does not deserve a technical foul. Trust me, if he had let go and injured himself, you would be to blame.
- Doron Lamb had a fantastic game. He didn't shoot the ball great from outside, but inside the arc, he was amazing. 16 points on an efficient 7-12. 4 rebounds added the cherry on top.
- Marquis Teague had a solid game with 4 assists and 12 points.
- Darius Miller didn't score as much as he could have, but he had 3 assists, 4 rebounds and 0 turnovers to go with 6 points.
- 72% team free throw shooting is solid.
Not so superlative:
- Marquis Teague was not solid with the ball tonight. His three turnovers were all bad ones.
- Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb both could have played better defense.
- Darius Miller was not aggressive enough. He was a matchup problem and yet they did not take advantage of that.
- I'm not totally pleased with the late lack of intensity.
- Kyle Wiltjer was not much good today.
- 3-10 3-point shooting impresses nobody. Frankly, 10 3-pointers were too many against a team as vertically challenged as Western is this year.
Overall, it was a good win for Kentucky. It wasn't perfect, but it was convincing without really sending a resounding message. Next up will be the winner of the Iowa St. and Connecticut game.