The game between the Kentucky Wildcats and Georgia Bulldogs was notable for two things — how well the Bulldogs were able to attack the normally stern Kentucky defense, and the inability of Kentucky to penetrate the Georgia zone defense. In the end, the Wildcats prevailed due to their depth, talent, and overall basketball elan, but this was a difficult test for Kentucky that almost resulted in their first loss of the season.
I do want to say I regret the lateness of this post. I blame real life, but I wish I had gotten it up a little sooner.
Georgia deserves a ton of credit. They did a great job of spreading Kentucky out and attacking off of switches early in the game, which produced a number of easy baskets and mismatches resulting in fouls. When Kentucky figured out they could no longer switch on Georgia because of the success of the Dawgs' side pick and rolls, the Wildcats performed somewhat better. Unfortunately for Kentucky, Georgia began making shots from the perimeter and difficult driving layups, and it was very nearly the undoing of Kentucky. Ultimately, the 'Cats were able to win due to a combination of determination and Georgia missing free throws and making crucial turnovers.
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Georgia has the somewhat unusual distinction of outshooting Kentucky by a significant margin and still losing the game. A combination of high turnover margin and missed free throws were the predominant factors. Usually, when you see a chart like the above, the better shooting team wins.
Kentucky's offensive rebounding doesn't look impressive, but Georgia is an excellent defensive rebounding team. I'm not unhappy that we just held our own on the offensive glass.
Kentucky did a good job of getting to the line. That helped their efficiency in a game where it may have well been right at 1 point/possession.
Kentucky allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 60% from inside the arc. I think that is the best anyone has done against UK from short range.
Way too many missed layups made this game much more competitive than it should've been.
John Calipari outsmarted himself by trying to switch on Georgia with their combination of athleticism and shooting big people. It almost did the Wildcats in.
Defensively, Kentucky was a step slow. They did a poor job in rotation on too many plays.
The Wildcats did a very decent job of defensive rebounding. That was also a factor in the victory.
Kentucky has to learn how to guard teams with skilled big men who can spread them out on defense. That's a big reason why shot blocks were so low. Mainly, in games like this, the 'Cats need to trap the pick and roll. I think that would've forced Georgia to do something different.
32% assists is the lowest in a long time.
Karl-Anthony Towns gets the game ball. He did a lot of great things, but he did foul out of the game. 8-12 shooting, all in the paint, and 7 big rebounds He had a block, a steal, and an assist in the bargain.
Andrew Harrison played well, and gets an honorable mention it was his 3-point shot from the right corner that got Kentucky back into the game after going 9 down late in the game. He only had one assists and a turnover, but he had 4 big rebounds, a steal, and was critical to winning the game.
Aaron Harrison also had a good game, and also gets an honorable mention. He shot the ball well, he made his free throws, and he had a steal. You can't ask much more from a shooting guard than that. Together, the Brothers Harrison were a big, big reason why Kentucky won.
Willie Cauley-Stein had a relatively poor game. He shot a poor percentage, did not rebound well and defended just okay. He wound up with a couple of blocks and a steal to go with 4 rebounds and 4 points, but we need more out of him than that.
Tyler Ulis had a so-so game. He had 4 assists against zero turnovers, but he missed all his shots. He's been struggling from the field lately.
Devin Booker was cold. He wound up 2 for 9 and even missed 2 of 6 free throws. He played okay otherwise, but this wasn't a great game for him.
Dakari Johnson made all his free throws, but missed two dead-bang layups. He managed only 3 rebounds in 12 minutes and had trouble guarding people in this game.
I thought Marcus Lee played splendidly. He only got 9 minutes, but he really made the most of them and scored 4 points and got 3 rebounds and a block. I'm not quite sure why he didn't get a few more of Willie's minutes.
Tying it all up
This was a struggle for the Wildcats from start to finish. Kentucky did not play well defensively and got off to a bad start because of a poor coaching decision by Coach Cal to switch on pick and roll. To his great credit, Calipari owned his error, and he has more than earned the right to make a few mistakes — just to prove he's human if for no other reason.
What I like about this game was that Kentucky showed for the fourth time this season the kind of cool competence in the face of a bad game and a determined foe playing their best. The Wildcats once again refused to lose, and that quality has proven over and over again to be an integral part of this group.
Winning the tough games like this is the difference between a great team an a historic one, and this year's version of Kentucky is proving, beyond their record, that they are a historic team. Every time they fight their way out of a tough situation, they add yet another memorable moment into their tapestry of memorable moments and new superlatives for this season.
It may not have been a convincing win to some, but to me, it was very beautiful.