Somewhere a Maui referee is whistling Jones for a foul.
Rough game for the Cats tonight as they fall to Connecticut 84-67. It was close from the get go until Terrence Jones got benched with two fouls early in the first half, and after that the Connecticut romp was on. But as John Wall put it… “Tough lost for my Cats tonite they will keep getting better….But good game by Uconn and Kemba Walker.” You gotta hand it to Kemba Walker, he was a beast.
Some things we learned tonight:
(1) Terrence Jones? Still a beast. But Kentucky is just not good without him at this point. Early in the game it looked like TJ would dominate, taking his man off the dribble seemingly at will. And ultimately Jones finished with 24, but was hampered with foul trouble early in the first half, and again in the second. Regardless of your opinion on the officiating, it became clear that without Jones in the line up, this Kentucky team will have trouble finding the basket. And that is mainly because…
(2) Brandon Knight needs to find his game. At times this year Knight has looked phenomenal. None of those times were within the state of Hawaii. The high school Gatorade Player of the Year has had a rough tournament, struggling to score, control the offense, or keep a handle on the ball. Knight’s leadership was needed during the stretch withouth Jones, and tonight it wasn’t there. Last year John Wall became a nationally known name against UConn in Madison Square Garden. This year held no such luck for the Kentucky point guard. I have no doubt that Brandon Knight will adjust to the college game and be fine – he’s too talented not to be – but as long as he continues to struggle, so will Kentucky.
(3) On the flip side, Kemba Walker was stupid good tonight, finishing with 29 points, 6 assists, 3 boards and 2 steals (and 90 points on the tournamnent.) Earlier today Cal mentioned regretting that he did not recruit Kemba. I regret it now too – but not because I want him on our team. With Calipari coaching him, he’d already be in the league. The kid is good.
(4) We did see a glimpse of the legendary-due-to-rarity Calipari zone tonight. And for a bit, it looked effective, forcing turnover almost immediately. But UConn (mainly Kemba Walker,) figured out the zone early and hit a couple open three’s, forcing Kentucky back into their primary man-to-man and back into a game of catch-up.
(5) It sucks to see your team get blown out. There really is no other way to put it. But we have to remember that this team is young, shallow, and playing their third game in three days. Fatigue will never be a factor like it was tonight. They will get better, and by the end of the season I think it’s safe to bet that games will look more like the one against Washington (minus the sloppiness,) than the one we witnessed tonight.
(6) Again, I know it sucks. But this loss isn’t the end of the world. Going into the tournament, we weren’t sure how good this Kentucky team will be, but by now we have a much clearer picture. They are talented but they are raw. They will win games they shouldn’t, but they very well may lose games they shouldn’t, too. Cal said going into the trip that the team could legitimately be 1-4 at this point. Few believed him (rightfully so,) but sitting 4-1 isn’t awful. And for a young team, early losses is not the worst thing in the world. While you hate to see a blow out, it provides plenty of teaching moments, and I will happily sacrifice a tournament loss in Novemeber for a tournament win in April.
(7) Free Enes. Please.
Oh, and happy Thanksgiving.