After an ugly first half that saw them score only 16 points and go into the break with a 10 point deficit, the Kentucky basketball team came out with a fire that fueled them to a 21-point second half advantage and a Las Vegas Invitational championship. I’m far too tired to go all-out on a recap, but I can promise you that Matt and everyone else will break it down from every angle tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a couple of my thoughts on the game.
– Jodie Meeks: 3-11, still a star. Jodie Meeks had a rough night from the field, shooting 3-11 and hitting only 1 of his 3 three point attempts, but he made up for it by doing what big-time scorers do. He got to the free throw line and put points on the board. In fact, Meeks knocked down all twelve free throws he took and finished with 19 points despite the poor shooting effort. That’s more big-time play from a guy who’s producing every single night. Oh yeah, he was also named MVP of the tournament.
– Patrick Patterson. Another double-double. No big deal. But, what was nice to see, was that Patterson was getting touches inside. It looked like a focus of the game plan – especially in the second half – to attack the fronting of the post by WVU and lob into Patterson, Stevenson or Harrellson. Far too often, they weren’t able to finish but it was a solid strategy and Patterson got his touches, which is never a bad thing. He’s looking better and better each game.
– DeAndre Liggins. What a second half for the young man who may or may not have done a Scottie Pippen impression yesterday. Liggins played masterfully in relief of Michael Porter (4 TO’s in 13 minutes) and played almost the entire second half (maybe the whole half, I was fading in and out of sleep at the beginning). Sure, he made four turnovers (Cats had 23 overall), but he looked confident and calm and completely unfazed by yesterday’s controversy. The best part, though, had to be late in the game when the Cats were starting to jump out to their lead when he pulled everyone in and started giving instructions to everyone – including Patterson and Meeks. That’s what you want out of your point guard.
– Give me fuel, give me fire. I don’t know what Billy Gillispie was dishing out in the locker room that made his team play with such passion and with a mean streak, but I hope that the guy gets it bottled. It’s a long season. The aggressiveness that we saw in spurts against Kansas State was back tonight for Kentucky and it’s basically what won them the game. They were all over the place defensively and made West Virginia uncomfortable on offense and used defensive toughness to win on a night where they shot only 39% from the field and made only 1 of 6 threes. Theis feistiness is what carried them on the 12-4 run in the SEC last year and it’s nice to have it back.
Their are countless examples in the second half of Kentucky displaying a mean streak, but the defining play was with UK up 2 and inbounding the ball under the WVU hoop, Patrick Patterson tried to get position and some muscling and jawing ensued. The refs broke it up, but Huggins’ boys wanted to keep running their tongue. Right before the ball was thrown in, the camera showed Da’Sean Butler look at Patterson and call him that “p” word that you can’t say in front of a lady. Ball comes in, Patterson gets it and goes up between three players for an “and-one” bucket. The game was never close again.
– Give ‘em the leg drop! The way the Cats finished off the Mountaineers was really a thing of beauty. With the game tied at 41 and 5 minutes to go, both Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson had four fouls and things looked troubling. But, with resolve that Francisco Rodriguez would admire, the Cats nailed the door shut and ended the game on an 13-2 run – and they did so by attacking the Mountaineers and getting to the free throw line. This is the type of killer instinct that we’ve been missing for awhile and, even if it lasts for just one night, it sure was nice to see the Cats go for blood when they smelled it.
– I watched the game with non-UK fans and they confirmed my pre-season suspicions. Ramon Harris does look like Doug.
– This is a little off subject of the game, but it deserves to be mentioned. I noticed during the game that a friend of mine from college was visible in the crowd multiple times and this man was wearing……a pink shirt. Can someone explain to me why a human being would fly to Las Vegas, go to the arena, root for the Cats and do it all in a pink shirt? Trick question. There is no answer. And if you tried to defend him just now, you’re just as wrong as he is.
Well, that’s it for now. Check back tomorrow when Matt runs down his thoughts from this big resume-building win. The Cats next game will be Wednesday against Lamar, who I think was my middle school bus driver.