It was an interesting night for Kentucky’s basketball team as they battled each other in a game that was as promising as it was ugly. It’s clear that they’re not quite where they need to be at this point and, with so much departed and so many new pieces, it’s not much of a surprise. In case you were stormed in or were too busy watching Glee, here is what you missed…
– Obviously, the star of the night was Brandon Knight, who not only poured in 37 points, but did so by shooting the ball at an incredibly efficient 14-20 clip. Calipari said after the game that he was pleased with how Knight played, but more so with how he seemed to learn that he can’t just drive at the basket and throw his body at someone. Sometimes, you have to pull up for the jumper. Tonight, he looked very effective in doing just that.
– Another bright spot was another freshman, Terrence Jones. Jones finished with 29 points and was the first half’s leading scorer and, arguably, it’s most consistent player. After the game, Cal said that he was pleased with how his forward played, but thought he took a couple of ill-advised threes. He also said that he expects him to use his length to hit the offensive glass better, but said that he was “pretty good” on Tuesday night.
– Though Cal said that he needs Jones to hit the offensive glass a little better, you have to cut him some slack. Josh Harrellson made it difficult for anyone else to pull down any rebounds. Jorts had 26 reboundsin the game, playing for both squads, and grabbed eight of them on the offensive end. It was a strong and aggressive performance similar to what he displayed during the student practice (or so they say) and Calipari said afterward, “I don’t think he’s ever done that in any of our drills.” Must be The Carlton. Calipari added, “We are either the worst offensive rebounding team in the country or Josh got better. We have to see what it is.”
– The player that most seem to expect to serve as the veteran leader role vacated by Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller, had a bit of an up-and-down game. Miller finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds, but also had a game-high five turnovers. But, it was the way that Miller seemed to disappear at times in the first half that seemed to be the most frustrating. In his first two seasons on campus, he had difficulty in disappearing while playing two very different roles. This year, again presented with a different role on yet another very different team, he can’t afford to do that. The second half Darius is the one that this team needs.
– Another returning player who needs to step into a much larger role, DeAndre Liggins, looked very similar to what he brought to the table last season. And, that’s not a bad thing. Calipari said he was great defensively and his aggressiveness, which included 16 first half shots, was promising, though it likely will be tightly reined in by the time the season starts. But, Liggins, who finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, looked hungry and ready to leave his mark every time he stepped on the floor. When you play like that, the numbers will come.
– Another interesting freshman performance came from Doron Lamb, who attacked the basket repeatedly on the way to 16 points. And, strangely, after coming to campus with so much hype surrounding his three-point shooting ability, he attempted no shots from downtown – the only player besides Eloy Vargas and Jarrod Polson not to do so. He also handed out six assists. A very strong showing.
– Speaking of Vargas, he still looked like he was trying to get comfortable in the offense and Coach Cal said that he did pretty well overall. However, he would like to see him “get in the mix” more and acknowledged that Harrellson crushed him on the boards. He needs to be more of a force in that regard.
– If I told you that Jon Hood shot the ball as many times as Brandon Knight, would you believe me? Hood looked very aggressive from the start, but missed his first 11 shots of the game before getting a dunk and finishing the first half 1-12. But, to his credit, he came out in the second half and shot 5-8 and finished with 14 points. He remains a bit of a question mark, but his confidence seems to be in place and you get the feeling that it’s all starting to come together. He looks like a guy who could have a solid game in one of the exhibitions or early games and then ride it into a nice spot in the rotation.
– After the game, Calipari was asked if he thought the game was useful, and he said that he felt it was really valuable. He said that the team is still “trying to figure out how to play” and that there are a lot of points in the game where they didn’t know what they were doing. Games like this give players an opportunity to get something to click and hopefully have a light turn on in their heads.
– Calipari said that because they could only go five-on-five, there were some guys cramping up afterward, but nothing major. Calipari had to call timeouts just to rest the guys at a few points and said that he considered using a running clock, but decided instead to use it as an opportunity to work on their conditioning. Because that’s going to be very, very important on a team with such a slim roster.
– In terms of playing time, Cal said he wants a seven-player rotationand he’s still figuring out who is going to be in that mix. You can assume that Knight, Jones, Miller, Lamb, Liggins and, eventually, Kanter are locks. He said that he thinks Harrellson could be in that mix. You’d have to assume that Hood and Vargas are too.- Speaking of Kanter, he sat courtside in an Undertaker shirt. That’s all there is to report there.
– Because of the storms throughout the state, there were about 10,000 fans on hand for the scrimmage. It gave a unique situation in the arena and allowed for a “Free Enes” chant to be heard on television, as well as someone screaming, “Jorts!” when Harrellson went to the basket.
That’s it for now. We’ll get into it more in the morning. See you then…