Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, your Kentucky Wildcats advance on to the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, dispatching the Hampton Pirates convincingly, 79-56. It was exactly what you’d expect from a 1-16 matchup with the #1 overall seed.
Congratulations to the Hampton Pirates. They played really well to get here, and nobody realistically expected them to upset Kentucky. They gave a fine effort and never quit playing hard. All the best to the Pirates, great season.
FINAL BOX, Kentucky vs Hampton… pic.twitter.com/DphXpLzlZ1— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) March 20, 2015
Overall, I was disappointed. Kentucky genuinely played poorly for much of the game, and wound up with 13 turnovers, most of them unforced. I thought Kentucky lacked energy for much of the game, took a lot of bad shots and basically just got by on talent alone. For long stretches, the defense was very good, but there were way too many breakdowns, especially early and late.
This was a lackluster win not due to the scoreboard, but because of how Kentucky played. They repeatedly made bad decisions, they were very careless with the ball, missed many short and wide-open shots, and even though Hampton played decent defense it really wasn’t good enough to hold Kentucky to 46% shooting.
I have no idea how many point-blank shots Kentucky missed, but it was a lot. Most of that was due to a lack of focus and intensity, and I would’ve hoped that the Wildcats had gotten past that by now. Alas, apparently not.
I’m probably complaining a little too much, but I am very uncomfortable playing a team the way we played this one, so far below our best effort of the season. Yes, I get that a great effort wasn’t required, but instead of a focused, workmanlike win, this was more of an indifferent effort. There was a time, between the middle of the first half and the middle of the second, when the Wildcats were playing pretty well. But the rest of the game was unappealing.
What Kentucky did do well was shoot free throws and make assists. The Wildcats had 15 assists for 28 made shots, and that’s really good. They also dominated the glass, but that was inevitable due to the ridiculous size advantage. Still, you have to do it, and even if the offense was frustratingly inept for long stretches, the defense was very good overall and Kentucky executed many fundamental basketball things like free throws, rebounding and passing very will.
In the end, we should celebrate 35-0. To achieve perfection, you don’t have to play perfectly every game, just well enough to win. I thing this one falls much closer to the latter than the former, but either one would be good enough.