Bruce Pearl brought his merry band into Rupp today, hoping to avenge for the purchase of Thomson-Bowling Arena. The Vols had learned from their mistakes — Jodie Meeks was face-guarded and doubled nearly the whole game. They also capitalized on what worked in Knoxville, as their big men pulled down offensive rebound after offensive rebound. The Vols ended the game with an absurd 23 offensive rebounds and just 13 defensive rebounds, and outrebounded the Cats 35-28. The Vols tried to limit Patrick Patterson by actively preventing passes inside.
But the Vols couldn’t adapt to the game. Darius Miller tore up the Vol’s defense with best game as a Wildcat: 17 points (6-6 FG, 3-3 3FG, 2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 1 turnover, 6 assists (including several down to Patterson) and 2 blocks. By becoming the mythical “3rd Scorer” that has been missing all season, Darius helped lead his Wildcats to a big victory over the Vols, 77-58.
It wasn’t just Darius’ shooting that helped free up Kentucky’s offense. The Vols begged Michael Porter to shoot. Michael scored 9 points on 3-6 3FG shooting, with the strangest pattern of shot results: Make, airball, make, airball off the backboard resulting in a shot clock violation, make, rim-hitting miss. Porter was much more aggressive on defense today, resulting with one steal after several takeaway attempts. Porter had some problems inbounding the ball, but was overall steady with the rock with his 6 assists and 2 turnovers.
Another contribution from the not-Jodie-and-Pat crowd: A.J. Stewart. Patterson left the game with 6:26 left in the first half with 2 fouls. A.J. played the rest of the half as a bruiser AND a 2-guard — he had 5 points (1-3 FG, 3-4 FT), 1 rebound and 1 assist. More importantly he played much better defense with his feet and not just his hands, resulting in zero fouls in his 6 minutes on the court.
Kentucky needed A.J., Darius and Michael to step up, since Jodie was effectively taken out of the game. Jodie ended up with 14 points (4-14 FG, 0-7 FG, 6-6 FT) and 3 steals. At times it appeared the Wildcats weren’t setting any off-the-ball screen plays for Jodie, and were willing to be content to wear down the shot clock to 10 seconds and try to let Jodie work his way through 3 defenders.
Noticably limping at times, Patrick Patterson returned in amazing fashion. Pat gathered his 19 points (9-12 FG, 1-2 FT) slowly through the game. He fought diligently in the post as Kentucky’s perimeter players were either unwilling or unable to throw the ball inside.
Gus Johnson and Dan Bonner stated at the end of the game that Tennessee is just a bad matchup against the Wildcats. That doesn’t make much sense. Tennessee has the athleticism to play the kind of defense to limit Kentucky to 60 points. Also, while Tennessee isn’t much of a jump-shooting team — and why they shot 13 3-pointers in the first half is beyond my reasoning — they have the ability to drive, dish and offensive rebound. All those strengths should make Tennessee a better team against the Wildcats. But its clear that in the SEC East, Tennessee is a pretender for the running.
So who are you? Yeah, who are you? Yeah, who are you?