I’m sorry. I really am. Before the game even started, I had the “celebrity birthdays January 13″ Google search all pulled up and was spending the pre-game staring dreamily into the eyes of Orlando Bloom, Liam Hemsworth, and Patrick Dempsey, internally debating which one deserved my complimentary prose. But when a guy struts into Rupp Arena and scores the most points for an opposing player in 23 years, you have to hand it to him. Elston Basketball is the new Johnny Football for Texas A&M. Turner, a 6-5 guard, is the son of former Mississippi player and current Phoenix Suns assistant coach and defensive coordinator. Going into TAMU’s first SEC road game, the younger Turner was averaging 15.5 PPG and 3.6 RPG but had never hit a 30 point game during his time at A&M. Corey Nichols warned us in the morning post that Turner was capable of a Devan Downey game, and unfortunately, Turner made Corey look like Nostradamus. With a final stat line of 40 points (15-19 shooting; 6-10 from long range), 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, Turner had a Jodie Meeks-esque game by waltzing into an opposing arena in the SEC and making himself quite comfortable. Turner called it “one of those games I will remember for the rest of my life,” and unfortunately I think BBN will remember it for quite awhile as well.
Regardless of the game’s outcome, it was an impressive performance to say the least, and for that, Elston Turner Jr earns the night post dedication. News, notes. I’m going to try and leave the salt truck parked outside.
Let’s rip the BandAid off. Kentucky dropped its SEC home opener against Texas A&M with a score of 83-71. TAMU was playing their first ever SEC road game and from the looks of it, they aren’t scared of the SEC at all. With Elston Turner accounting for nearly half of their points, the Aggies gave the Cats all they could handle and then some. With this loss and few chances for quality wins on the rest of the schedule, prepare to hear the phrase “bubble team” an uncomfortable amount of times in the next few weeks.
Not to say the Cats didn’t have their opportunities to win. They did. By Matt’s count, Kentucky had the momentum in the second-half five times, with five chances to score a game-ending basket. Each time, the University of Elston Turner answered. Call it youth, call it a lack of an aggressive perimeter defender, call it an abundance of blue hairs in Rupp- but the bottom line remains that the Cats don’t know what it takes to make the fat lady sing.
Hustlin is a habit, get like Nerlens. The big man continued to wow BBN with his relentless effort and, had it not been for Turner, Noel’s near quadruple-double would have been the game’s storyline. Noel had 15 points, 11 rebounds, 7 blocks, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 0 turnovers. Let that sink in for a minute. It was the first time a D-1 player had reached those marks in a single game since the 1996-97 season. Noel had one of the most impressive all-around games in college basketball, and yet Kentucky still lost.
For what feels like the umpteenth game this season, the Cats got out-rebounded with the final margin being 35-30. That hurts.
As far as Wiltjer Watch goes, the sophomore shooter was 0-2 from the field (0-1 from three point range) in 19 minutes of play. At times I thought it might be necessary to reload the ESPN3 site, but no, that was actually the speed at which Wiltjer played. Julius Mays and Ryan Harrow both made a couple of three-pointers to keep the Cats alive, and it’s starting to look like that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the season, especially if…
Harrow continues to play like a Calipari point guard. True, he had five turnovers today (somehow I missed those), but he scored 14 points and looked as confident as we’ve seen him on the court.
Alex Poythress didn’t quite roar, but it wasn’t a whisper either. Poythress had 12 points and 6 rebounds and apparently felt emboldened enough to talk back to Calipari on the sidelines a few times, prompting quick trips to the bench. I can live with a 12/6 line from Alex, and I think it’s time the rest of BBN settled on that too.
Willie Cauley-Stein had six points and three rebounds, but Calipari was most proud of him for talking smack to the Aggies. Calipari took the verbal sparring as evidence that Willie was learning how to “stand his ground” rather than regress. If only that had moved from verbal retorts to scoring retorts.
Class of 2014 point guard Tyus Jones was on hand to witness the Elston Turner show. I’m sorry you had to see that, Tyus.
Upsides to end with? Calipari likes his team. Elston Turner won’t happen every game. We have Tennessee (currently 0-2 start in the SEC) on the docket. Nerlens Noel is a machine. And more than that, at the post-game presser, Nerlens sounded like he might be ready to step up as the leader of the team. Noel told reporters, “It’s time we take responsibility. Coach Cal has done a lot for us, but I feel it’s time for us, as a team, to start coming around, clicking, and doing what we have to do… There’s a time, that us as players, have to start taking responsibility and I feel that time is now.” That’s an MKG-esque quote, and one that the Wildcats will hopefully take to heart.
Enough basketball for the night. Let’s talk football. The football recruits visiting this weekend also attended the basketball game, and somewhat surprisingly, a few in the student section took the time to make posters showing the recruits some love. At a basketball game. That’s not something you see very often in Rupp, but maybe we should get used to it now that Stoops is at the helm. Tim Couach was the Y in the basketball game today, a nice little head nod to the football recruits on hand. We’ll be on commitment watch tomorrow.
In fact, we already got one. Ohio OL Kyle Meadows, a 3 star with offers from Florida St, West Virginia and Louisville, committed to the Cats today. Stoops is making moves in Ohio.
Speaking of recruits, Asiantii Woulard and Ra’shaad Samples found the time to try on some new UK jerseys. It was a good look for them, one they should strongly consider keeping in vogue for the next few years.
Mark Stoops completed his first Kentucky staff by officially hiring Tommy Mainord (wide receivers coach) and Derrick Ansley (cornerbacks coach). Mainord comes from Texas Tech, having coached with newly minted OC Neal Brown, while Ansley is a young up-and-comer fresh off a season in Tennessee.
Stoops also found the time to squeeze in a press conference before attending the basketball game, telling press that he was very excited about the upcoming renovations to Commonwealth Stadium and Nutter Field House and that he believes it will have a great impact on the program. “Everything Mitch and I talked about has come true.” I feel warm and fuzzy just reading that.
Duke lost. So there’s that.
Let’s end on that note. Andrew Cassady and I will be hanging around tomorrow, and between tonight’s basketball debacle and the football recruiting visits wrapping up, it could end up being a roller coaster of the day. Buckle up, guys.
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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