Had you seen only the game Saturday in Nashville, you would have assumed two things (1) Tennessee is truly dreadful and has no shooters or offensive scheme to speak of and (2) Kentucky has the best fanbase in America. The first probably isnt a fair representation of reality but the second most certainly is, as Kentucky turned out in masse to produce what Eric Bledsoe says was “the craziest I have seen it” in Nashville. Cat fans filled the arena, but also the bars and streets as many couldnt pay the 400-500 dollar average price I saw going into the game. But the ones that were there made it loud and UK made them proud in the 74-45 beatdown. Some notes:
— The key to this game and to the postseason for UK is the ability to knock down threes. It doesnt even have to be many….Kentucky actually only shot 36% during the game. But the Cats need to drop a few in, just to keep other teams honest and to put pressure on their defense. Eric Bledsoe had five, Darnell Dodson two and the next thing you know, Cousins controls the inside. Games where Kentucky shoots like this, they will be hard to beat.
— The story after the game was the Daniel Orton incident, although it looks as if all parties are over it quickly. Orton got into an exchange with Calipari and then couldnt be calmed down for a bit, and he was sent to the lockerroom. Scott Padgett then went with him, he calmed down and returned and slapped five with CAlipari as the crowd cheered. After the game Patrick Patterson said, “this kind of thing happens all the time, you guys just dont see it.” Probably true, but being at the SEC Tournament, it got attention. For their part, both Calipari and Orton said afterwards that all was fine.
— After the game, Calipari admitted that his thoughts on the SEC Tournament had changed slightly. He said that he still believes that the most important thing about the tournament is the way it sets up for NCAA Seeding and that he isnt a huge worrier about conference titles and tournaments. But he did say, “When I see a building full of fans who paid a lot of money for these tickets, some of them with money they dont really have, I feel as a coach that we owe them our best.” He clearly was blown away by the scene and it was a great motivator for he and the team.
— Calipari also said that this team changes when threes are being made. “If we are making threes like that..we become pretty good. But there are games we wont, so lets win them anyway.”
— Patrick Patterson said after the game that the team does not like the Vols but that dislike is only on the court. “After the game we are all cool with each other, but during the game, we all hate each other.” For fans, it probably doesnt have the same qualifier.
— The atmosphere in the arena was electric. Every time UT’s band played “Rocky Top”, the UK fans would stand up and chant GO BIG BLUE as loudly as possible and basically drown out all sound from the band. For a UK fan, it was a great thing to watch and hear, and the fans in the arena seemed to take pride in it throughout.
— Lots of former UK folks there, including Ashley Judd, Rex Chapman, Pat Riley and Kevin Grevey.
— The ejection of Melvin Goins was deserved and it sparked one of the more intimidating sights I have seen, an angry Boogie walking towards him, saying things that arent fit for print. I look at that and wonder to myself, “how could anyone think it is a good idea to mess with him?” I still dont get it.
One of the chippiest games, with the most trash talking that I have ever seen. It was a battle throughout and is a game to remember, in part because of the final score, but also the intensity. When Kentucky has games like this, they can win any game against any team in any situation. Hope for more.