Remember what happened the last time you went up against a cat, Brutus?
The more I watch Ohio State, the more I’m reminded of a team Kentucky has already faced this season: Vanderbilt.
Let me start by saying that Vandy is infinitely inferior to Ohio State, I realize that. But, the matchups are pretty similar. Think about it: both teams have talented outside shooters (Jenkins for Vandy, Diebler/Buford for OSU) and strong big men (Ezeli for Vandy, Sullinger for OSU). Looking back, Kentucky struggled against Vanderbilt in Nashville, thanks to a career performance from Jenkins and poor defense from the Cats. In Lexington, Kentucky found a way to win, largely on the shoulders of Mr. Jorts Day himself, Josh Harrellson. For fun, let’s look at how Kentucky won that game and how that might help them against THE Ohio State University.
- Vandy got Osh-Kosh-be-JOSHED!
To say that Jorts had a good game on Senior Night is a huge understatement. The man from Missouri had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 big blocks, and he held his own vs. Festus Ezeli, who has proven to be one of the better big men in the SEC this season. Now, Sullinger probably makes Ezeli look like Eloy, but the fact that Jorts didn’t back down from a dominant big man is promising, as is his play thus far in the tournament. Plus, this is really the first time Sullinger has gone up against someone his own size, and if Jorts can hold his own against him, it will allow other defenders to guard the perimeter. Valuable relief minutes from Eloy will help (although I may need some relief minutes myself after watching Eloy go up against Sullinger…).
- Valuable contributions from the veterans
Darius Miller created a major matchup problem for Vandy when they played the Cats in Lexington, and had a respectful twelve points to show for it. Brad Tinsley sure isn’t David Lighty or William Buford, but Miller’s contributions were one of the reasons the Cats pulled off that victory. Miller CANNOT disappear like did vs. West Virginia. If he does, we’re done. He will have his hands full with David Lighty, but could create a matchup problem on offense with his slightly bigger size and ability to attack off the dribble.
- Improved perimeter defense
Good grief, if there’s something the Cats must do and do well on Friday night, it’s defend the perimeter. This has been an area in which the Cats have shined this season, thanks in large part to DeAndre Liggins’ manic defense, but the Buckeyes sport three major outside threats in Diebler, Lighty, and Buford. Vandy’s Jenkins gave the Cats fits in Nashville, but that was mainly because the Commodores constantly ran screens to free him up. Ohio State doesn’t really do that because both their shooters are athletic enough to get their own shots, but if the Cats can put the clamp on the Buckeye’s perimeter shooting, it will go a long way in helping our cause (here’s looking at you, Lamb). A bad shooting performance from Ohio State wouldn’t hurt either.
- Make the free ones
Kentucky was 7-8 from the free throw line against Vandy. It goes without saying, but every free point counts, especially against a team like this.
And while you’re at it…
- Time for Terrence to step up
I feel like I write that phrase for every game now. The most frustrating thing about Terrence Jones (here we go…) may be that if he played to his potential, he would be impossible to guard against just about anybody. Especially Ohio State. Who will Thad Matta put on him? Lauderdale? LOL. If Jones comes to play (IF IF IF), he could be the key to the game.
- Run them into the ground
Ohio State may be talented. They may be athletic. But, they aren’t fast. Know who is? Kentucky. If Kentucky can create turnovers and fast break opportunities, they can control the tempo of the game, which is something very few teams have been able to do against the Buckeyes. Knight will be the key to the Cats taking control of the game.
What do you think the “X factor” will be on Friday night?