A.J. Stewart, who was welcomed back on the team by his teammates and his coaches, was put in the game with :30 seconds left to guard Tasmin Mitchell. Mitchell set up a screen (for Thorton, I think?) and swung back over to the top of the key. A.J. stayed with the ball to trap. With the ball passed back over to Mitchell, A.J. couldn’t get back quick enough to challenge the shot. Mitchell sunk the 3, and with it, possibly Kentucky’s best shot at getting into the NCAA’s. Despite a great defensive effort for most of the second half, Kentucky loses to LSU 73-70.
Update 11:04 PM – According to Brett Dawson at the C-J, who talked to Coach Gillispie and several UK players after the game, Kevin Galloway was the UK player who botched the assignment. Evidently he was instructed to switch to Mitchell, but did not.
More summary is coming in this post but I’m going to go ahead and publish it. That way you guys can commence with the weeping, gnashing of teeth, wearing of sackcloth and other ways of self-flagellation. Oh, you could just be calling for Billy’s head too. I forgot about that method of dealing with grief.
So, about Meeks’ final shot. There was definitely contact, and there was definitely contact on Jodie’ shooting arm. It wasn’t called a foul, but I’m not surprised. Late in the second half, LSU’s Marcus Thorton drove into a leaping Patrick Patterson, missed the shot and did not get a foul call. With :35 seconds left in the game Kevin Galloway drove into Bo Spencer kinda recklessly and the refs called up Bo. The officiating was wildly inconsistent all game long, therefore it doesn’t surprise me that the refs wouldn’t blow the whistle for Jodie. (To be quite honest, refereeing is wildly inconsistent across all of college basketball.)
Meeks had 9 points in the first half and had lots of difficulty getting free. That was partially his fault for forcing up some shots and partially the team’s fault for not setting good screens. The team and Jodie got into more rhythm in the second half. Jodie ended with 24 points (10-22 FG, 1-9 3FG, 3-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 turnovers (several bad decisions in the first half) and 2 steals.
Patrick did everything he could. His game against South Carolina was the most “courageous” effort Billy has ever seen. I’d say today was the most “I’m ready for the NBA” game. Pat single-handedly kept us within range in the first half by being nigh unstoppable. Pat ended up with 28 points (12-17 FG, 4-6 FT), 9 rebounds (3 offensive, 6 defensive), 3 assists, 3 turnovers and one steal. He showed that he can shoot a jumper, can score in multiple moves and played nearly perfect defense.
Once again, our lack of a point guard was exposed by our opponent’s point guard. Bo Spencer scored 16 points and 4-7 on 3-pointers. While the offense didn’t completely move through him — especially when Thornton was keeping LSU in the game singlehandedly in the middle of the second half — but he was too dangerous of a shooting threat to leave alone. With 1:19 left in the game, Thornton drove and dished to a wide-open Spencer open in the corner, who nails the shot.
Kevin Galloway did everything he could in the 20 minutes he played. But Kevin was having problems keeping up with the quicker LSU guards, especially on cuts. Ramon Harris played a decent defensive game in his 28 minutes, but our “best” defender couldn’t stop them. Liggins played 3 minutes; not for sure if that’s a “coach’s decision” or not. Meeks was pretty inconstant on defense, especially in the first half when he couldn’t get through a few screens. Mike Porter didn’t play in the second half, so you can’t blame him for Thornton’s efforts (19 points in the second half; 23 points total.)
I had so many friends ask me these past several days, “can Billy Gillispie coach in a game?” I tend to think that Billy has an awesome eye for matchups and mismatches, especially on offense. Tonight I saw probably one of the best offensively-executed games of the Gillispie era. Meeks drove against players that he could drive against. Patterson and Meeks worked off one another. Outside of Meeks forcing up several shots, the team seemed to be taking high-percentage shots. Kentucky had a few sloppy possessions in the first half (10 turnovers), but executed very well through the second half (5 turnovers).
Unfortunately our defense was just not completely there, especially in the first half. You can point to the players in the game for blame. It seemed very few possessions in the first half had Kentucky players in position to contest the jump shots. In the second half, Billy made the adjustments necessary and the Wildcats committed to the D. Our lockdown on defense — especially stopping offensive rebounds! — fueled Kentucky’s comeback in the game. Jump shots were contested and drives were well defended for the first time in forever. Outside of Thornton’s execution, the Tigers were clearly rattled.
So what happened after that? LSU settled down with their senior-led team and exploited our weaknesses. In the last 3 minutes, Kentucky showed its youthfulness as the “trying too hard” defense returned. Overplaying traps allowed LSU to score 8 points in the last 1:40 of the game.
That’s not an excuse for Billy or his staff. But I am beginning to think that his biggest sin is trying to force his methods of basketball with the staff he has. Its clear that Miller, Patterson and Meeks can execute in it, but the rest of the team is either incapable or unable.
So NIT? NCAAs? I just want to win a game.
Oh, by the way, some of our commenters are enjoying the crazy phone calls on WLAP right now (7:13 PM EST).