If Louisville basketball is having the worst week ever after dropping 3 straight games, Villanova is having the best week ever. Even though storming the court has lost all of it’s magic (more on that later…), you know it’s been a good week for your team when your fans have felt compelled to storm the court twice. Villanova was having a rather lackluster season until this week when they knocked off 2 top 5 teams in back to back games. After knocking off #5 Louisville at home on Tuesday, Villanova did their best to prove it wasn’t simply a fluke by handling 3rd ranked Syracuse at home again this afternoon. The Wildcats move to 13-7 overall (4-3 in the Big East). A team that was an afterthought a week ago has now gained a palpable buzz as we head toward the halfway point in conference play. The only thing certain about college basketball this season is that absolutely nothing is certain. Someone random WILL win your office bracket pool. That much I’d be willing to bet on.
While on the topic of Villanova and their spectacular week, let’s quickly discuss the growing obsession with storming the court. Does it really matter if people storm courts or don’t storm courts following games? No. Of course not. Is a huge deal? No, it’s not. Is it a bit excessive though? Yeah, I tend to think so. And I’m not saying this as a “snobby Kentucky fan who thinks no one should ever storm the court.” Here are a few simple terms that the college basketball world could use to determine whether or not a court should be stormed or not. Take it or leave it…
And now on to the news and views from a game day here in Lexington…
—– Kentucky moved to 13-6 on the season with a win over LSU, one of the SEC’s bottom dwellers, tonight in Rupp Arena. Kentucky improves to 4-2 in SEC play with the 75-70 win over the Tigers. —– Kentucky once again pieced together a solid performance in the first half. A pleasant surprise came in the form of freshman Alex Poythress, who looked sharp, decisive and energetic from the start. Poythress got the ball down low with his back to the basket early and often, finding ways to aggressively attack the basket for big baskets around the rim. His teammates were thrilled for him, and you could see it in their reaction to each of his baskets. Players were coming up and chest bumping Poythress. For Poythress’ part, he was enthusiastic and all smiles as well. —– Two of Poythress’ teammates talked about their excitement for his strong performance on the night (he finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds). Fellow freshmen Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel both admitted to feeling sorry for Poythress at times this season, watching him struggle to find his game. Goodwin said he “feels sorry for him for what Cal puts him through.” Goodwin says that Poythress gets Cal’s worst in practice and “it’s not even close.” —– Nerlens Noel chimed in though, adding that it’s been good for Poythress and perhaps even necessary. “It’s for his own good. He has to change,” Noel said. “We need him.” —– Poythress seemed looser and even genuinely happy following today’s win. When asked how fun today was on a scale of 1-10, Poythress responded with “11.” He said he finally smiled because, “who wouldn’t after 20 and 12? I love playing basketball. I’ve been playing since I was a little young pup.” —– Although Poythress has struggled to fulfill the effort being asked of him by his coach, he might have taken a big step forward tonight. “Playing hard for me and playing hard for Coach Cal is a whole different level.” —– Calipari could hardly contain his joy and pride for Poythress’ performance after the game. He went into a long and detailed speech about him to the crowd in his IMG post-game press conference. “A guy like Alex thinks he’s really going hard. But he’s not. You don’t go long enough. He’s starting to accept that and he’s starting to practice different. He’s starting to change his habits. One of the greatest developments for human kind was us realizing at some point ‘we can change our attitudes and we can change our habits.’ And if we do that, our life changes. Wow.” —– You’ve probably already read it on here earlier, but these Calipari comments on Poythress deserve repeating: “I was so proud of Alex. I can’t begin to tell ya. He’s getting it. Without him, we don’t win.” That right there… has been a long time coming. —– As happy as Calipari was with Poythress, his post-game comments allude to the fact that the overall attitude of the team and some of the individuals is still a work in progress. “Everything is about attitude. A bad team with a good attitude is going to beat a good team with a bad attitude. An attitude doesn’t mean you talk back to your coach either. It might mean you miss a play on offense and you put your head down and jog back on defense. An attitude where you say, ‘I don’t like to talk.’ Well, become an accountant (drink). You gotta talk, or play a sport where it’s just you. Because at the end of the day, we have to do all those things. Again, Nerlens played well and Alex was just tremendous. I wanted to get him out so he could get an ovation. I want him to understand you work, you sacrifice, and that’s what happens to you. It’s worth it. But you gotta see some success so they’ll want to keep going.” —– So if we’re keeping tabs at home, I think this is where the team likely stands in Calipari’s eyes when it comes to giving the kind of effort he wants/expects (at least after today):
Guys on board most, if not all nights: Nerlens Noel, Kyle Wiltjer, Julius Mays
More than halfway there: Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow
Still figuring it out: Archie Goodwin
*Willie Cauley-Stein is TBA due to sitting out the past 3 games
—– Speaking of guys who are starting to “get it”, Calipari spoke in detail about Kyle Wiltjer’s transformation over the past few games. He said that he talked to Wiltjer in front of the team the other day and asked, “Kyle what happened? Why did you change your attitude toward effort and your attitude toward practice?” Calipari said that Wiltjer replied: “I was embarrassed after Vandy. I didn’t wanna be that guy. I didn’t wanna get scored on. I didn’t wanna miss rebounds.” Calipari said you would love Wiltjer if you saw the way he practiced. He’s dunking, flying up and down the court, etc. —– Then Calipari brought up someone a bit unexpected. Cal said “You know who else has gotten a lot better? Jon Hood.” Calipari went on to discuss the way in which Hood was been practicing, which has really impressed him. He says Hood has made some plays where Calipari has blown his whistle and stopped practice to cheer for him. He said Hood is all smiles, but now he wants to see him play that way in games. Calipari said Hood still plays too nervous and tentative, and he wants to see him play with the same energy he practices with. —– Calipari said he has talked to this year’s group of players about how they want to be remembered. Calipari says he knows it’s hard to be the team that follows a national championship team. But he told his young guys that “you get defined as a player not just by wins and losses. You get defined by how you played. When you think of these guys 10 years from now, will you remember which games they won or lost? No. You’re going to remember how they played. That’s what we’re trying to get to. It’s just been a slow process.” —– The road doesn’t get easier for Kentucky as they face one of the marquee games on their schedule on Tuesday. Kentucky will travel to Ole Miss, one of the few top-25 teams remaining on Kentucky’s schedule. Kentucky is in desperate need of quality wins, and a win against Ole Miss on the road would be huge. Calipari talked about how Ole Miss is ready to “womp on them.” —– Calipari is excited about the chance to make a statement though. “Let’s go. Let’s see where we are.” —– By the way, Ole Miss nearly coughed one up against Auburn tonight. Ole Miss hung on for a 63-61 win on the road. Marshall Henderson hit the game winning free throws and proceeded to pop his jersey to the Auburn student section. We might start to feel about Henderson the way we feel about Joakim Noah very soon.
(Clearly at least one Auburn fan isn’t amused…H/t Izzy Gould)
—– Willie Cauley-Stein missed his third consecutive game today as he continues to nurse a knee injury. Calipari seemed optimistic about Cauley-Stein’s return next week, although he believes Saturday is more likely than Tuesday. However, he did not rule out a return for the Ole Miss game. For his part, Cauley-Stein is anxious to get back on the court…
—– Before we move on from tonight’s game and post-game commentary, let us once again send a big thank you to UK assistant coach John Robic for pulling Nerlens Noel off the court to keep Kentucky from potentially receiving a technical foul in the closing seconds of the game. #GoldenHairDoesCare
(From Randall Cobb: “Thanks to all of BBN for continuing to make memorable moments for me!) Right back at ya, green eyes.
Let’s talk a little football now, shall we?
—– Mark Stoops had yet another huge recruiting weekend for Kentucky football. By all accounts, at least four 4-stars were on campus this afternoon to take in the Kentucky basketball game. Jason Hatcher, Ryan Timmons, James Hearns and Marcus McWilson were all either on official or unofficial visits this weekend. Although the rumors began swirling after the game that Hearns and McWilson committed, the official word has yet to come. Regardless of the status of the commitments at this point, if Stoops can secure even 2 of those guys, that will continue to add to what might be Kentucky’s best class ever. —– Stay tuned tomorrow. After a weekend like this, hopefully some good news might be on the way… —– The news wasn’t all positive on the football front this weekend though. 3-star OL/DL Lovell Peterson de-committed from Kentucky. He will attend Grand Valley State instead to pursue football AND track and field. Reportedly his girlfriend will also attend school at Grand Valley State. As Doron Lamb would say…#NoCuffing. —– And last but not least, the Washington Wizards pulled off a nice upset win against the Bulls tonight behind strong play from former Wildcat John Wall. Since Wall’s return, the Wizards have enjoyed a winning record after a dismal start to the season. Wall finished with 15 points and 7 assists in 27 minutes.
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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