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Robert Morris Colonials 49, Kentucky Wildcats 87: Postmortem

Honor is satisfied as the Wildcats avenge their loss earlier this year to Robert Morris.

Andy Lyons

This was the kind of game Kentucky fans probably hoped for last season, but that never was going to happen then. It did happen now as Kentucky avenged last year's shocking upset by Robert Morris in a convincing manner.

Good effort by the Robert Morris Colonials. They were always going to be out-manned and out-talented in this game, and their best hope, perhaps only hope, was to out-hustle the Wildcats and catch them on a cold shooting night. Alas for them, neither eventuality came to pass, and RMU simply could not get anything inside at all over the taller, longer Wildcats. Good luck to them the rest of the season.

For Kentucky, this game was an improvement over the prior five in almost every respect, particularly on defense. No, the 'Cats did not play great defense except comparatively, but at this point in the season, that's their real foe — the last game they played. The Wildcats continue to improve defensively, although the offense looked a little herky-jerky at times tonight, it was quite effective against RMU.

Here are the stats for your perusal.

Team observations

  • The defensive intensity was definitely up a notch or two from the last few games. That's a hopeful sign, but it is still far from what we can reasonably call "good." At this point in the season, though, I am going to say it was comparatively excellent.

  • I thought the passing was good tonight, but a couple of times Kentucky seemed to over-pass just a bit.

  • Turnovers were a bit of a problem, but let's not get to hasty here. RMU is a small team with active hands, and many were just good defensive plays on their part.

  • Where Kentucky is continuing to go wrong is dribbling the ball into traffic. This is a hard habit to fix, as when you are in high school, you can do that and get away with it most of the time. In college, you manifestly cannot, not against an experienced team with quick hands. They need to learn this.

  • Transition defense was markedly better.

  • Transition offense was better also, but in my judgment, it was too rare. I also thought that we were very slow getting into the half court offense, and that frustrates me. If you can get the ball moving before the defense is fully organized, your chances of scoring go way up per possession. Kentucky has to fix this.

  • This team rebounds like no other I can ever remember at Kentucky, except maybe the Suffocats.

  • Free throw shooting is about where it should be, but the first half was much better than the second. I think, and somebody mentioned this in the comments, that tired legs are affecting FT shooting later, and perhaps this is so. All the more reason to make them early in the game, I guess.

  • Kentucky had 20 assists tonight, which is way, way better than the 7 they had against the Michigan St. Spartans.

Player observations

  • Aaron Harrison has to get the game ball. His line was stellar, with 28 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, a block, 2 turnovers and a partridge in a pear tree. He looked much more comfortable tonight than against the Spartans.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein had almost as impressive a line as Aaron: 7 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks and 2 turnovers. He really was in seriously considered over Aaron for the game ball, but I thought Aaron edged him out.

  • James Young had another good game, although he continues to shoot the ball poorly from the arc. 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 turnovers. His perimeter shooting will improve, don't worry.

  • Julius Randle was, as usual, a beast. Another double-double with 10 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks and 3 turnovers. He could have had 30 and 20, even though RMU tried triple-teams to get the ball out of his hands.

  • Andrew Harrison played very well, even though his stats are pretty pedestrian — 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists 1 steal and 2 turnovers.

  • Dominique Hawkins had a heck of a game. He really played good defense, he made some very nice plays including a great lob, and a couple of nice cuts to the basket. He really helped in many ways. 4 points, 2 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 volleyball-spike block, and ... zero turnovers.

  • Marcus Lee started and did his job — he got the tip, as well as 2 points on his only attempt, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks.

  • Alex Poythress kind of reverted to the old AP. He played a bit out of control, didn't defend that well, and wound up with only 12 minutes. He had 2 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 turnovers.

  • Dakari Johnson played fine. He had 8 points, 3 rebounds and a turnover. I would have like to see more rebounds.

  • Derek Willis, E.J. Floreal, Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood all played cleanup minutes, and all of them played pretty well. Willis scored 6 points, and Floreal had a nice dunk.

Overall, this was just exactly what all of us were hoping for — a big improvement over Michigan St. and a payback for the loss we suffered at the hands of RMU last season. Honor is satisfied, and improvement in most facets of the game was realized. Happy days.

RMU is one of the two toughest teams Kentucky will face until they play Providence on December 1st, and it will be interesting to see if Calipari can motivate them to play hard though this stretch with a combination of the bench and other methods known only to him and the Wildcats coaching staff. Clearly, starting Lee at the five really motivated WCS, as he had maybe his best game all year.

Next up: Cleveland St. University of Texas-Arlington on Tuesday.