Okay, let’s shift gears. When you view the game though that wonderful lens called perspective, it’s not all that bad. The Cats played poorly for most of the game in a very hostile environment, but it took a three at the buzzer for the Hoosiers to beat them. With that in mind, let’s examine the positives from yesterday:
— Marquis Teague’s turnaround
Teague had a terrible first half. So bad that Cal benched him at the start of the second, putting Miller in and moving Lamb to point guard, a move that got the offense flowing much more efficiently. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much more from Teague the rest of the game; however, the freshman took his bad play and used it as fuel for an aggressive second half performance that kept the Cats in the game. More than any other player, yesterday’s game was personal to Teague. It was his homecoming, and after a horrid first half that would leave many players pouting on the bench, Teague stepped up, scoring 15 points on flawless 5-5 shooting. After the game, both Cal and Darius Miller said that when Teague is playing like he did in the second half, Kentucky is a different team. Let’s just hope the second half on Saturday was the start of a new chapter in Teague’s maturation.
— Michael Man-Gilchrist
With the team struggling to find a rhythm on both sides of the court, most would expect a seasoned veteran to step up and provide a spark. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the youngest person on this squad, continues to play like a man and do the dirty work when others won’t. Yesterday, he put up 18 points and 9 rebounds, but his effect on the game was much larger. MKG became the aggressor on both sides of the court, cleaning up the boards and driving the lane; when everyone else but Doron Lamb basically looked lost, Kidd-Gilchrist got the Cats off the ropes and “warriored” them back into the game. In my mind, he is this team’s most valuable player, and his presence extends far past the box score.
— Doron Lamb’s leadership
The other player that got the Cats through a putrid first half was Doron Lamb. Lamb was one of the few players on the team looking to score, and although the shots weren’t always falling for him (he was 5-14 from the field), he kept trying. Yes, he missed that crucial free throw down the stretch, but Lamb was one of the reasons the Cats were in it at the end, and the confidence he showed yesterday was encouraging.
— The Cats scratched back
A young team in a hostile environment with its star player in foul trouble is usually a recipe for disaster. And for a while yesterday, it was. However, with around eight minutes to go in the second half, the Cats found a way to scratch their way back into the game by turning up the defense and sinking baskets. Unfortunately, their lack of execution on the final play cost them the game, but to me, the fire they showed to battle back on the road will be invaluable as this season rolls on. It is in situations like this that teams find their identities, and if it takes a loss in December to do it, so be it. To me, that’s a mighty fine consolation prize.
Did I miss anything?