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Kentucky Basketball: Blue-White Game Postmortem

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It's a rite of passage for Wildcats teams, but this one was at a different level of intensity.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Well, another Blue-White game is in the books, and what a game it was. This was, by far and without a doubt, the most competitive and high-level Blue-White scrimmage we have seen at Kentucky since John Calipari has been here. It was a treat for the basketball-starved Big Blue Nation, and we aren’t going to be overly critical of anything. It was just for fun, although I suspect it will be less fun after Coach Cal gets a look at the tape. There were some good things, of course, but also some pretty bad ones — the transition defense by the Blue squad comes immediately to mind.

Kentucky box

Team observations

  • I really enjoyed both squads, and I think Coach Cal did a good job making the teams up. They were evenly matched except for the guard play, where I thought Blue had a notable advantage.

  • The size of this team is hard to get a handle on. There are very few, if any NBA teams this big.

  • I have nothing much to say about the offense for either team, it was ad-hoc and mostly pick and roll. Blue executed much better, due to the experience of the guards.

  • Three-point shooting was underwhelming. Both teams shot sub-30%. I have a feeling that’s going to be the biggest weakness we have this season.

  • The free throw shooting has got to get better, because it could hardly get worse. Yes, the Harrisons and Karl-Anthony Towns shot it well, but the White team shot extremely poorly from the line.

  • Overall, I thought both teams had chemistry, but they played very different styles. The Blue attacked the rim relentlessly. The White passed the ball better. It was an interesting contrast.

Individual observations

  • Andrew Harrison was simply great. He was exactly the guard Coach Cal expects him to be - overpowering and efficient. Game ball for the Blue.

  • Karl-Anthony Towns showed everyone why NBA scouts are so in love with him. He did everything very well for such a young guy.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein was efficient, he rebounded, he scored, he was five for five. What can you say? At times, he looked indomitable, like some kind of basketball superhero. At others, he was merely good. Overall, I was left wondering how badly UK would have beaten UConn last year if he’d been available.

  • Aaron Harrison has played better. He was inefficient, but he was very hard to handle with the ball.

  • I was really happy with Trey Lyles game, and I think he can play the three for this team. I’m not sure he can guard the position, but offensively, he looked right at home.

  • Alex Poythress was an interesting study in contrasts. He was very inefficient when he was with the White, but he was very strong with the Blue. He looked very comfortable on the perimeter with his old teammates, and not so comfortable with his new ones.

  • Derek Willis was the mirror image of Poythress, playing better for the White than the Blue. He was 2-2 with the White and had 3 assists and a couple of rebounds.

  • As far as the White goes, I thought Dakari Johnson was much the best. He was immovable in the post, and he rebounded relentlessly. Game ball for the White.

  • I thought Tyler Ulis was exposed a bit today. He’s still really good, but there are some things he really can’t do yet; one of them is penetrate effectively, and the other is guard a bigger guard going to the basket. Andrew abused him off the bounce. Tyler did a good job when he was able to push up on Andrew away from the basket and created some havoc, but handling a big guard like Andrew from the 3-point line in is beyond him at the moment. But he did have a game-high six assists, which is exactly what he does well.

  • Another player that was exposed a bit tonight was Devin Booker. He did some very good things offensively, and like Ulis, when he was well alway from the basket, he was a defensive pest and gave the Aaron problems. He made a high percentage offensively, and got out on a lot of snowbirds. He made shots inside the arc, and mad some good cuts. But he’s got a ways to go, because he was handled by Aaron on offense as a game-high eight (8) fouls will attest.

  • Dominque Hawkins did some good things for the White team, but he was better playing for the blue.

  • Marcus Lee had a quiet offensive game, bu the was an animal on the backboards with a team-high nine rebounds. He also had three assists, and is a face-up jumper away from competing seriously for a starting spot.

Tying it all up

All in all, I couldn’t be more pleased with this affair. I thought both teams competed like mad, maybe a little bit too much, — at one point I began to fear for their health with the physicality of it. If this happens every day in practice, there are going to be injuries. But that’s part of basketball at this level.

I was pleased with virtually everything. I’d like to have seen better rebounding form (two hands, Lyles and Towns), better picks (although there were some good ones) and much better communication. There was a lot of messing about with layups that should’ve been dunks and celebrating on made shots (I’m looking at you, Alex Poythress), but overall, it was something that opponents entertaining any thoughts of beating the Wildcats should look at in dismay. That’s the way I like it.

The first official game of the season is next against Pikeville on Sunday. The season is here, Wildcats fans. I think we’re ready, and so is the team.