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Boise St. Broncos 55, Kentucky Wildcats 70: Postmortem

This was a game that Kentucky finally showed a tiny bit of what they can do. This was a very good Boise St. team to handle this easily anywhere.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, this was what you have been waiting to see. No, it wasn't perfect. Yes, there were still many things to criticize, but this was a very convincing win against the best team Kentucky has played to date that they have not lost to. Boise St. is the kind of team that could have given Kentucky fits, and they manifestly did not give the Wildcats anything remotely approximating a fit.

Thanks to Boise St. for the excellent game. I could tell the Broncos were frustrated, and I'm willing to concede their travel difficulties getting here put them off their game. I know Boise St. is better than they showed tonight, and they showed plenty. This is a fine, experienced basketball team with a lot of skill, but not a lot of size. They played hard tonight, and we appreciate the unique style and effort they brought to Rupp Arena.

This was one of the best games Kentucky has played all year from the defensive standpoint, and it still wasn't a thing of beauty. The Wildcats were too big and strong for the Broncos inside, and to their credit, they hung with them well on the outside. Despite flaws and issues, I thought Kentucky defended pretty well, and rebounded the ball much better. But we'll get to that.

Team observations

  • Statistically, where Kentucky shone was on defense. Depending on your perspective, they held Boise St. to 32% from the field, 29% from the arc. There is also a fair argument that the Broncos were off tonight.

  • Kentucky did a very solid job on the offensive glass tonight. When you shoot 53% for a game, there are not that many rebounds to be had.

  • Ten blocks will make a team wonder about its prowess every time, and nine of them were made by Willie Cauley-Stein.

  • 20 turnovers is way, way too many in a game of what figures to be about 67 possessions. Way. Too. Many.

  • I'm impressed by the low number of fouls overall. I thought there were several missed calls, though.

  • Holding Boise St. to only 55 points is amazing to me. They average about 90 per game.

  • Calipari substituted a lot, but not for long stretches. Much better than last game, though, and it showed by the energy the players had.

  • Kentucky's lob passing is getting noticeably better. Transition offense is improving, and so is transition defense.

  • 3-point shooting was bad again tonight. That needs to change.

  • Pick-and-roll defense was much better tonight. It still needs work, but it was much better.

Player observations

  • Willie Cauley-Stein had the most complete game of any player. He's not expected to score a lot, and he didn't, but he did score six points on 3/3 shooting, had 7 rebounds, 9 blocks, a steal and only two turnovers. Game ball to him and his whacked-out new hairdo. Cauley-Stein had Boise St. talking to themselves. He took them out of their game.

  • James Young was a close second. Young scored a bunch of points but took a team high 15 shots, making a solid 7. He was 3/4 from the line, had 9 big rebounds, but turned the ball over 5 times. Young was huge in the first half, but a minor factor in the second offensively.

  • I think Andrew Harrison played his best game tonight, and he still messed some things up. But I love the effort and improvement I saw in his game. 13 points on 4/7 shooting, 5/7 from the line, 2 assists and 3 turnovers. We need more assists from him.

  • Aaron Harrison also had a good game. He was 6/12 from the field and was very effective using his size as a weapon, although he was 0-4 from the arc. He had 4 rebounds, an assist, 3 steals and 3 turnovers.

  • Julius Randle was his normal studly self tonight, and 17 points on 7/11 shooting, 3/4 from the line, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 4 turnovers is a line I'll take from him every game — except the turnovers. He has to learn to pass the ball better, and more effectively, when he gets double-teamed.

  • Alex Poythress gave some good minutes. He didn't score, but he did rebound and played very respectable defense. 3 rebounds, 1 assist and zero turnovers.

  • Dominique Hawkins played just like he always does — hard and intense. He missed some wide open looks and a layup or two, but he did some good things defensively. I love his effort — it is noticeably superior to anyone else on the team.

  • Dakari Johnson was just okay. He really didn't defend well at all against the quicker Boise St. Broncos, he never could get into position to score, and he wound up with only 1 rebound in 11 minutes to show for his effort.

  • Jarrod Polson made a brief cameo, but did not impact the box score.

Overall, this is a game I think this team, and we, can be proud of. Yes, we were a bit lucky that Boise St. was not hot, because they got too many open looks, but Kentucky had a lot to say about that due to some pretty good defense by the team and some great shot-blocking by Cauley-Stein. This was a game that, after the disappointing loss to the Baylor Bears in Arlington, TX, could have gone sideways, but never really got close to doing so. That says something, I think, about the resiliency of these young guys.

Boise St. is a really good team, and to handle them with this much ease, even at home, is something to be proud of. I'm going to take this win and celebrate it with a nice tot of Four Roses Single Barrel, because this was the first game I really thought the team effort was anywhere within shouting distance of what we need to see on defense. No, they didn't talk, but they will — hopefully.

Good job, 'Cats.