It was a lot of this.
Both Kyle Wiltjer and Archie Goodwin scored twenty-plus points, Alex Poythress finally engaged beast mode, and the reserves played a solid first half in response to a terrible fifteen-minute stretch of officiating.
And yet, the story of UK’s biggest win this season was all about Nerlens Noel.
One of Cal’s favorite questions to ask his team is, “What do you do to help the team when you’re not scoring?” We heard it all last season, when Terrence Jones was slumping, or when Marquis Teague was settling in. Well, last night Nerlens carried his team while only scoring two points, both from the line. The seven rebounds were solid, but the ridiculous twelve blocks (a school record) were really something else. If Cal asks that question of Noel, he can now answer with an Anthony Davis, championship-game level performance.
Even Myron Medcalf, who picked Ole Miss by double digits, couldn’t stop raving about the freshman:
Nerlens Noel … that’s all – It didn’t make sense until the end of Kentucky’s 87-74 victory at No. 16 Ole Miss. The quick whistles (22 fouls called in the first 15 minutes of the matchup) didn’t help the flow of a sloppy half. But the biggest factor in the Rebs’ offensive lapse was Nerlens Noel. [Ole Miss scored 16 straight] And then, Noel put a lid on the rim. You could see Ole Miss’ fear again as the freshman swatted shots even though he had four fouls. It was Noel who controlled the game. He had a monumental presence in a crucial win for the Wildcats.
In a game where we were looking for lots of other players to take strides, like Goodwin’s free throw shooting, Poythress’ beast mode, and Wiltjer’s aggression, it was Noel who took enough strides to stay ahead of this team. Not happy enough to let his teammates’ good games be enough, he stepped up and took his own game to an even higher level. The seven blocks to start with were good enough, but the five he got after the fourth foul were transcendent. To see a player still be so aggressive on D, and inspire so much fear, with four fouls on his head, and not foul out, is ridiculous.
So while we can appreciate the games that Goodwin, Wiltjer, Poythress, and the others had, it’s really time to appreciate what Nerlens is doing this season. He’s living under Anthony’s shadow, and his team isn’t getting the attention that last year’s did, but in a different year, his defense would be the biggest story in the nation. Let’s hope it can continue, and lead the Cats to a ranking and a low seed.
Also, he got the score way wrong, but somebody give Dickie V some credit for calling exactly how the Cats’ would pick up their first big win:
Something tells me BBN will smile today as @ukcoachcalipariwill have CATS contain 3 pt shooting of Rebels.VBDI just told me Cats 71 – 65!
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) January 29, 2013
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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