SEC Championship, here we come. UK’s 70-58 win over Georgia wasn’t quite as thrilling as last night’s victory over LSU, but it’s the second good game in a row for the Cats, and earns them another shot at #1 Florida. Let’s go over some notes, then go celebrate.
The tweak got a bit streaky, but the Cats recovered
At the beginning of the game, it looked like the good times were rolling again. Kentucky stormed out to a 12-2 lead, and the Big Blue Nation was already making their Saturday night plans. However, with James Young and Willie Cauley-Stein both picking up two fouls early, the team reverted to its bad habits, focusing on perimeter passing instead of penetrating and kicking it back out. You could almost feel the Dome groan as Kentucky went on a long scoring drought, missing their next nine shots. What happened? Cal said they started pouting, hanging their heads, “acting like babies.” However, Aaron Harrison did his best to keep the Cats rolling, scoring 16 points in the first half on his way to 22…
Aaron Harrison came to play
After everyone raved about his brother Andrew yesterday, Aaron wanted some of the spotlight. Aaron had 22 points tonight off 7-10 shooting, and 4-7 from behind the arc. Aaron told reporters afterwards that he was feeling it, and credited his brother and Julius Randle for getting him good looks.
Aaron’s three with about 14 minutes left mirrored Alex Poythress’ three yesterday, and got Kentucky’s offense flowing again. From there, the Cats got rolling and didn’t look back.
Andrew is still sharing
Are we still guessing what the tweak is? Yesterday, Andrew had eight assists. Today, he had nine. With all that sharing, it’s no surprise that the Cats were able to put together two of their best games all season. Andrew also had twelve points, including a three that even got Coach Cal smiling. Julius Randle said Andrew reminded him of the Harrison Twins he played against growing up: “I’ve been playing against them my whole life. That’s who I grew up playing against.” What’s the difference in his play this week? Cal said the Twins have finally taken the weight of the world off their shoulders and are just playing. Aaron agreed, telling reporters his brother is “having fun. He’s more relaxed. He’s just playing basketball.”
It shows. I’ve seen Andrew Harrison smile more in the past two days than the entire season. Even he admits it: “We’re starting to play with a lot more emotion. We’re having fun. You can see us smiling.”
“We’re not the same team”
It’s hard to believe this is the same team that fell on its face in Gainesville a week ago. Back then, Kentucky was only able to put together five good minutes. What a difference a tweak makes. After the game, John Calipari said that this is “not the same team” that struggled so much a few weeks ago:
“We’re not the same team. You’ve seen us now, we’re not the same team we were two, three weeks ago. It took some stuff and tweaking some stuff and making us more physical in practice,because the games are becoming slugfest again.”
They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season. We’ll find out soon enough. Tomorrow’s game is much more important for Kentucky than Florida. The Gators are pretty much guaranteed a number one seed right now, and could do what the Cats did back in the 2012 SEC Tournament finals and drop one, especially considering how physical their game was against Tennessee earlier this afternoon. Kentucky could get the ultimate momentum boost with a win over the Gators. Even more, they want it. After the game, Willie Cauley-Stein told reporters that the team’s goal after losing to Florida last week was getting to the SEC Tournament title game so they could get another shot at the Gators. Julius Randle said he wanted Florida to beat Tennessee for the same reason. You think this team has confidence now? Imagine if they can beat the number one team in the country.
For now, let’s enjoy the W: