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Buffalo Bulls 52, Kentucky Wildcats 71: First Impressions

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This was not the game we were looking for from #1 Kentucky.

One of many missed layups.
One of many missed layups.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think anyone was expecting the Kentucky Wildcats to be down at the half against the Buffalo Bulls in Rupp Arena, but it did turn out that way. In spite of that unexpected deficit, the Wildcats went on to a 71-52 victory that was not quite as easy as the score made it look, although I do say that with some reservations that we’ll discuss later.

Congratulations to Bobby Hurley and his Bulls on a well-played and tough game.  Buffalo was not intimidated by Kentucky’s size, hype, or quantity of McDonalds All-Americans and demonstrated that if a team takes you lightly, you have an opportunity to pull an upset. Buffalo couldn’t quite finish that off, but they took advantage of a disinterested half of basketball by Kentucky and sent a message to the young Wildcats about what it means to play against a quality Division I opponent.

It goes without saying that Kentucky lacked energy, focus, and intensity in the first half. In fact, this Wildcats team looked as if they were annoyed to be forced to play a game at mid-day on a Sunday, and would rather have been somewhere else. Fortunately, John Calipari got their collective minds right at halftime, and they came out in the second half properly motivated. The result was several big runs that left Buffalo in the proverbial dust.

Box Score

Observations

  • The first thing that jumps out at me are the turnovers. After committing 10 in the first half alone, the Wildcats only gave it up 4 times in the second half. That’s the good news.

  • The second thing that jumps out is the shooting percentage. Kentucky only managed 41% against a team they vastly outsized and out-talented. Not good at all.

  • Short shots were again a problem for Kentucky. That has to be addressed.

  • Rebounding looks lopsided, but I’ll bet that when I run the numbers, I’m not going to be singing Kentucky’s praises.

  • To their credit, the big men defended much better in the second half, keeping their feet instead of falling for every shot fake.

  • Kentucky’s defensive pressure, mainly on the press, was a big reason why Kentucky was able to come back and dominate the half. Coach Cal should take careful note of that. I’ve been an advocate for a more intense press since the beginning of the season.

  • 65% free throw shooting is inadequate.

  • 30% 3-point shooting is also inadequate.

  • Kentucky must control fouls, and they did a poor job of that today. Mainly it was the freshmen that had difficulty. That’s certainly forgivable at this point.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein cannot be pleased by this:

    Welcome to the wrong end of SportsCenter, Willie.

I’ll have a lot more in the postmortem later today, but this game should serve as a wakeup call for Kentucky, and the message is simple — you can’t take games off, ever. We’ll have to wait and see if that message was received.