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Cats finally finish the Vols, 75-65

Photo by James Crisp/AP

Finally, the finish we’ve all been waiting for. After flirting with disaster for most of the game, the Cats finally put their big boy pants on and finished the Vols, 75-65. Let’s break it down:

— This was a must-win game for the Cats, who have been the talk of the country this week because of their recent slips and newly minted “bubble team” status. It wasn’t always pretty, and at times you wanted to pull your hair out from frustration, but for once, the Cats toughed it out. Is that the identity the Cats are beginning to take on? “Look, folks. We are what we are. I love this team. We have so much upside. We’re going to be in dogfights.” That’s how big tonight’s win was, guys…it moved Cal from “liking” to “loving” his team.

— I don’t think anyone would argue that the MVP of this squad is Nerlens Noel. For the second game in a row, Nerlens turned in an outstanding performance, with 12 points, nine rebounds, two assists, six blocked shots and four steals. I’m pretty sure he even wiped the drool from that little girl behind the bench’s mouth while he was at it. Nerlens does it all, most of which doesn’t even make the stat line. Unbelievably, Nerlens didn’t score a single point in the first half, but came out roaring in the second, setting the tone defensively and hustling on every play. We’ve mentioned it a lot, but Nerlens leads the team in steals, and is on pace to rack up 85 this season, along with 120 blocks. More importantly, he is often the catalyst for the team’s best plays, knocking balls from defenders to his teammates, who can capitalize on numbers and score. He is well on his way to becoming a leader, putting the team on his back at several points tonight. Calipari agrees, chalking much of that up to Nerlens’ hard work during Camp Cal: “He’s beginning to [become a leader] and that’s what we need from him. But the reason he can do it is he’s been really working in practice.”

— Let’s all stand up and give a hand to Kyle Wiltjer, who bounced back after one of the worst games of his career to lead the team in scoring with 17 points. Wiltjer was the Subway Sub of the Game and more, helping the Cats to a quick start with five fast points off the bench. Wiltjer was 6-10 from the field and 2-6 from behind the arc, but most encouraging was his aggression, particularly late in the second half, when he scored four straight points, blocked a shot and then grabbed a rebound. Kyle’s renewed aggression didn’t go unnoticed by either coach. Cuonzo Martin said that his team prepared for Kyle as a perimeter shooter, which made his moves to the inside in the second half even more dangerous. Calipari was downright giddy with Kyle’s attitude and performance: “For the first time since he’s been here, Kyle told me to run a play for him. And I absolutely did.”

— The biggest smile in the building tonight belonged to Julius Mays, who finally hit the big shots the team needs him to hit. With five minutes left, Mays sank back-to-back threes to put the Cats up by six, a lead they kept the rest of the game. Those threes may be what saves Kentucky’s season, and gave Mays a much-needed confidence boost.

— Although they put together a good finish, this team still lacks consistency. For a long stretch in the second half, for each big stride they would make, they’d follow it with a dumb foul or defensive breakdown. I think one live blogger put it best: this is why this team can’t have nice things. Raise your hand if you felt like this at one point tonight:

It’s a problem that Cal says is becoming this team’s trademark: “In the last seven or eight years, I’ve had teams that have absolutely whomped on people. And this ain’t one of ‘em. I can’t imagine this team being up 20 on anybody.”

— Some, including Cal, have questioned the cajones on this squad. So far this season, this group has been milder than a “Downton Abby” watch party. All week, Cal has been trying to light a fire under his guys, challenging them with Jarnell Stokes’ quote about winning in Rupp Arena and literally demonstrating how he wants Alex Poythress to react after a big play against Texas A&M. Tonight’s game was chippier than most, something that Cal welcomed: “If I see someone talking to one of my players and they’re not challenging back, I’m not happy. You gotta be a man.”

Right, Noel? “We’ve just got to really start to develop that killer mentality. If they step in this arena, we’re not giving them anything easy.”

— Basically, it’s time for the Cats to stand in the mirror and say this:

— And then there was the frustrating play of “Arghchie” Goodwin. At times, Goodwin is unstoppable, driving the lane with moves that will keep him in the NBA for years to come. At other times, Goodwin is literally unstoppable, meaning that he flies at the basket with no plan and no control. You can’t say Archie isn’t giving effort–by nature, he is a playmaker who still battles the high school urge to make a play himself even if there isn’t one to be made–but for him to mature into the player he can be, he has to step back and examine his options before taking it to the rim. When he does that, the results are great, like when he dished the ball to Julius Mays late in the second half for a three. Unfortunately, the familiar refrain of “PASS THE BALL ARCHIE” continued tonight, along with the new “DON’T GET FOULED ARCHIE.” Archie fouled out with 3:49 left, which is precisely when the Cats went on a 11-6 run. It sounds absurd to say, but the Cats looked more fluid with Archie off the floor late in the game, but you can’t afford to keep a weapon like him on the bench for long.

Alex Poythress continued to baby step his way to beast mode tonight, finishing with ten points and eight rebounds. He showed a lot of hustle at the beginning of the game, diving after balls and sinking some truly beautiful threes. (His three may be my favorite shot on this entire team.) While that is encouraging, the next step for Alex is bringing that intensity to his offense. Diving for balls is great, but driving for dunks is even better.

— Thankfully, Jarnell Stokes and his giant clown feet were largely a non-factor in the game due to foul trouble. Jarnell, better luck at beating the Cats in Rupp Arena next ye–yeaaaaah, not gonna happen.

Now, the Cats hit the road for back-to-back road games at Auburn and Alabama. Let’s hope they bring this new attitude with them.

P.S. Go Wisconsin!

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

70 Comments for Cats finally finish the Vols, 75-65

  1. Ridge Runner
    11:05 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    As usual, great summation Ms T. While I think of it, I dropped ya a email when ya have time.

    Alex, you can do this thing. C’mon my man, we need ya!!!

  2. bigbluejon
    11:09 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    Suck it IU!

  3. Ridge Runner
    11:10 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    PS…I love me some Badgers too.

  4. MemphisCat
    11:11 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    I was excited to see Alex fired up when Noel dunked a shot. I think they are finally coming together.

  5. Comeoncats
    11:12 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    This team has the talent and they have the coaching. They just need that final spark. I watch as much college ball as I can, and after seeing IU exposed tonight, it’s clear that a healthy Duke and UL are on a different level than everyone else…and we gave them both all they wanted! I refuse to give up on this team.

  6. MemphisCat
    11:12 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    No rushing the court tonight iu??? Maybe they need to change up the popcorn containers at home, they might want to play Wisconsin at a neutral court.

  7. Mike
    11:13 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    Big shoutout to WISCONSIN!!! WTH can’t out team try to play with their toughness and desire” Their answer to Bill Walton #35 was quite the STUD. He even told the crowd to shoved it. Do we have anyone on our team with those stones?? NOT…I would take him over anyone on our team with exception of Noel. Have you ever seen a faster handshake than from Crean??

  8. bigbluejon
    11:13 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    I also love that Dakitch(?) had to sit there and watch it

  9. Hans
    11:15 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    So muh positivity for nothing. We barely beat a horrible UT team at home. Ugh this team sucks hope they get better. Prob won’t tho

  10. Mike
    11:17 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    4. MemphisCat…finally coming together??…just because of a couple of mins. of high energy play….not quite ready to drink that kool aid. Do hope u r right though.

  11. j. Dinkle
    11:18 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    Matt … there is way to much reading on this site, can you and the gang use more photos or something, dang!!!

  12. LoganBleedsBlue
    11:22 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    Positive night. A W is a W. Starting to come together more as a team. Making good steps for a nice run in March.

  13. Badams
    11:29 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    If Goodwin would learn to drive, stop, and shoot the floater that Lamb and Miller made so beautiful, he would be so much better. That and passing the ball. He kills me puttin up shots he knows is about to get put back in his face. He needs to take a page out of Mays book and bring it back out like I saw him do.

  14. Hey
    11:29 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    I will take a season like this year with a title every three years. Card troll can suk on deezs. Keep coming on here. And for the feeble Cat fans that can’t deal with adversity, leave. Don’t come back when the train gets on track. I’m enjoying the excitement of this season knowing the struggles now won’t last long.

  15. Hey
    11:34 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    By the way, when Pitino arrived at UL he had a trophy case set up for placing a Championship Trophy. It’s still empty!!! If UK gets to the NCAA tourney and UL goes down as quickly as Karen Sypher does, this season is a success!!!

  16. KyFryDaddy
    11:39 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    Nerles had 6 blocks…Tyler…Need to Get your stats correct like we need to get our Defense correct!

  17. Bulldawg
    11:52 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    Great post TT!! I could not have written it better. It almost seems like you heard me talking during the game… even when Archie was on the floor, when the offense did not go through him, it was much more productive. Goodwin needs to truly understand the concept of TEAM ball. Hopefully Cal is finally starting to get through to him. I just wonder how much better the team would be, if any, is Archie had taken a break instead of Ryan Harrow earlier this year?

  18. Kevin C.
    11:54 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    Nerlens should be the obvious choice for SEC Freshman of the Week, just like WC-S last week.

  19. I Say
    11:59 pm January 15, 2013 Permalink

    Archie just needs some one on one time with Cal

  20. coldspringmike
    12:02 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    #7-do you even think it was a attempt at a handshake? what a clown, cry baby, sore loser he is. Hope Bo returns the favor in Wisconsin.

  21. Cotton Mash
    12:10 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    If anyone gets a chance to lookup Creans post-game comments
    you should do it. Man he’s a sore loser and of course accepts no blame
    even though he is 0-9 against Bo Ryan now and got out coached.

  22. BoobieMiles
    12:25 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Archie reminds me so much of Terrance Jones his freshman year. Both players really seemed to disturb the flow of the game, as in once they got the ball in their hands it rarely left their hands until the possession was over. I really hope Cal digs into him a little bit this week about how the team closed better on the floor with him than say a close game against UL where he ran aimlessly into a triple team with no apparent plan(not saying we lost because of him, clearly many many factors, but in book if Harrow handles that last trip up we at least get a decent shot off, all hearsay anyhow). Long story short I think maybe Archie and Cal need to have a moment similar to this

  23. Syrin
    12:32 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Sweet Sixteen Creen

    THIS is why I have hopes for March. There are NO dominant teams, and we played neck and neck with two of the best. If this team can gel by March, we could make a very deep run, if not win the whole thing. This March will have more upsets than any in history. Teams I would fear are teams like Butler.

  24. Bobbum man
    12:34 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    4- “when Noel dunked a shot”? What are you 90 years old

  25. IndianaLost
    12:59 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Not giving up on this team yet. Saw a lot of positive little things in the game. Five or six more games will show a much improved team.

  26. Jughead
    1:02 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Hey Archie, let’s try this…you pass the ball some instead of trying to run everyone over. I think it will pay off big time

  27. Iowacat
    1:26 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    On Wisconsin!

  28. SeaCat
    1:29 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Why can’t Harrow lob to Noel and WCS?
    With two bigs it should be easy.
    Can they not catch it?
    Can Harrow not do it?
    Maybe Cal should try and teach Archie
    to stop and lob.
    That might improve his overall game.

  29. ThisGuy
    1:32 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    I loved that we finally got wiltjer some touches inside I think he floats way too much on the perimeter. I think we need to get him the ball more on offense it’s like jimmy dykes said our offense flows way better when he’s in. get him the ball where he can make plays, he’s not only our best shooter but our best passer as well. There’s no reason he shouldn’t put up 15 shots during a game.

  30. Calicat
    2:28 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Anyone else notice the changes to Vandy’s gym tonight? On ESPN’s Top 10 Plays, they show the Ole Miss shot at the buzzer to send it to overtime. Backboard has nice neared led lights and the shot clocks measured to tents of a second and were elevated. Wonder why the improvements were made so suddenly?

  31. Calicat
    2:30 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Above should read:

    Nice new red led lights

    Tenths of a second

    Late night typing and auto-correct is no bueno.

  32. Kentucky Legend Ham Up in Ya Mouth
    3:11 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Maybe if Cal yells more, we won’t suck as much.

  33. Yancey Cat
    3:14 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Gotta Get Get!!!!!

  34. Big Whoop
    4:02 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    What was wring with Wiltjer? Somebody put ants in his pants. We saw more movement from him in one game than the rest of the season. He actually worked for some shots instead of just standing there watching the game. Good for him. Maybe that passive/submissive personality is beginning to change.

    I think I saw more energy from Poythress,too. Maybe my eyes were deceiving me, but it looked like it. We still aren’t a very good team. But, I enjoy Noel’s passion. Taht makes this team worth watching.

  35. 430 West Vine
    5:26 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    This team’s problem is defense. Most of Cal’s teams have been great defensive stoppers, which often led to easy points on the offensive end. Fix the defense and we’re having different conversations about this team.

  36. Chris
    5:34 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Everytime I end up reading the comment section I’m just embarrassed. Not as a UK fan but as a loser.

  37. Catlanta
    6:28 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    We will beat Auburn by 20!!! Book it!

  38. FatBlueKid
    6:29 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    First off, thank you Badgers! WOO HOO! I’ll take the win last night but nothing to thump chest about. We have to get it together. Very pedestrian win. I want to see some of the blowouts like we saw against lesser competition. We have so much talent but for whatever reason, it is not clicking. Harrow and Noel are the only 2 kids I feel good about and yes Wiltjer had a much better game. I want to see an end to end, never in doubt game against a horrific Auburn program. No more of these sloppy wins. Hopefully, we are going through some bumps and like 11-12, we get hot, while another team we all know and hate has gotten as good as they will be and will hit their slide here in the upcoming weeks. Who knows, maybe we will be seeded higher??

  39. SexnNursinHomes
    6:47 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Indiana has now lost 2 games to UNRANKED teams. HAHHAHAH Thought they were ALL-WORLD. And to add to it, UK has only lost 3 more games than them. Yet they are #2 in the country. OVERRATED OVERRATED OVERRATED OVERRATED.

  40. ShelbyCatFan
    6:49 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Am I the only one who is tired of Noel and Stein on the floor at the same time? When theyre out there together seems like half the floor is useless on offense. Works decent on defense but boggs down the offense way too much. Anyone??

  41. HooHoo
    7:37 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    i don’t feel so good.

  42. bung
    7:50 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Tennessee…………… 2 4 – 6
    Kentucky……………. 0 0 – 0

  43. Fastest Handshake In History
    7:57 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Was that Tom Crean of “Dash” from “The Incredibles” giving that handshake at the end of the game? Maybe his scared of catching the flu! Hilarious!

  44. Fastest Handshake In History
    7:58 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    “or”, not “of” – gotta love auto-correct…

  45. bung
    7:58 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    archie was 2-10…could have been 2-3 with 10 assists

  46. Blue
    8:16 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    What frustrates me most about this team is that so many of them just play DUMB basketball. I’m all for being aggressive and trying to make things happen, but Archie and Alex force the issue ENTIRELY too much. A couple of examples from the game:

    -Archie on a breakaway with Wiltjer in front of him, keeps the ball instead of giving it up and shoots an uncontested layup. Wiltjer had a dunk if he passes the ball. he made the shot, but what if he had gotten blocked, or (gasp!) fouled? Make the easy play.

    -Archie driving the length of the floor and flying into four Tennessee defenders right at the end of the first half, when he had three good perimeter shooters WIDE OPEN for 3’s to end the half. Just stupid, selfish play.

    -Alex Poythress…How many times is he going to try to drive baseline only to a) get a charge called, b) throw up a wild shot over a double-team, c) step a foot out of bounds, or d) turn the ball over? He needs to move more without the ball to create his scoring opportunities, and be very VERY careful about picking his driving opportunities.

    In addition to those instances, Ryan Harrow and Archie continue to make bonehead defensive mistakes…Why, in mid-January, are they STILL chasing offensive players around screens. Either fight over the top, or make a hard cut underneath. But both are content to chase, or in Harrow’s case, drop way down and leave perimeter shooters wide open. It’s simple things like that that put our entire defense out of position and a big reason why we’ve allowed our last two opponents to shoot almost 50%. Can’t happen.

    I know they’re a young group, but the year is half over. It’s time to start cleaning that up.

  47. Blue
    8:18 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Oh, and as happy as we all are with Indiana’s loss…We should be even more thrilled that Ole Miss was able to come back and beat Vanderbilt. If Vandy had won that game, that’s one less potential quality win for us…And we all know we need as many quality wins as possible.

  48. UK Fan
    8:20 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t believe Goodwin is capable of playing intelligent and/or team basketball. So Mays hits a couple of shots and Wiltjer finds himself open and hits 2 for 6 threes. That is nothing more than one game…not a trend. Until Goodwin decides he going to play for the team, he should be benched.

  49. bluefan
    8:23 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    I, too, miss the auto-lob and am not sure why this team is not even trying to utilize the two big guys more on offense. One big difference in AD & NN is the team around them obviously. Noel could have big numbers if they would get him the ball.

  50. bung
    8:29 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    lets see…26 defensive rebounds and ZERO fast break baskets…I guess stokes just gets back on defense too quick for us…

  51. red headed step child
    8:29 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Thanks for moderation.

  52. UK
    8:34 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Time for UK football to get on a new reggiemeant!

  53. rob
    8:38 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Does anyone have video of Archie Goodwin almost jumping over the rim trying to throw down kinda late first half?

  54. philip
    8:39 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Thanks Tyler, great post. Insightful, realistic, and funny. You’re the man, I mean chic.

  55. bung
    8:40 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    you mean that time he should have made an assist to his wide open teammate

  56. Rockfield, KY
    8:45 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    I know I sound like a bad fan, but I was happy Archie fouled out. He gives up so many points because when he is near the basket he only thinks shoot and often misses other players that would get a “dunk shot” or a layup. You can’t be selfish and be successful and you’d think he’d know that after seeing last years team win while being selfless.

  57. Rockfield, KY
    8:46 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    50. You’re right. On last years team, Nerlens would score more and probably win player of the year. His post came is coming along nicely.

  58. SteveM
    8:48 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Can someone explain why Cal continues to allow Goodwin to play like it’s one on five? He is a cancer to this team.

  59. HeshimuEvans'2ndGradeTeacher
    8:48 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    I have a request: Can someone PLEASE find a way to keep the ignorant ass RACIST comments off of this site!? Or do you enjoy the hits too much? I make a comment about you guys taking a while to say anything about the UofL BCS win and it’s not allowed, yet I get on here this morning and read disgusting comment after disgusting comment. Here’s an idea, if there’s no one there to moderate at that time then don’t allow comments. Thanks. Hopefully this makes it through moderation.

  60. woodworm
    8:51 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    *50-one of the big reasons we don’t see the auto-lob much is nerls just doesn’t have the hands like a davis had. davis had arms that reached out like a frog’s tongue and snatched the ball

  61. whodat
    8:53 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Its really not that Archie is selfish…. he just doesnt see the floor. Teams are realizing this and collapsing on him when he gets the ball because they know he cant pass. If he doesnt learn to “see 10” its only going to get worse for us and him on the half court.

  62. HeshimuEvans'2ndGradeTeacher
    9:12 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    #62 – How can you say that? Did you see the first half play when he got the loose ball, had Kyle wide open under the basket all alone and decided to take it himself for a contested layup? Sure he made it, but if you don’t think that’s selfish and that he couldn’t see Kyle, then you or his eyeballs have issues. The play when he tried to dunk on the kid was also selfish. He had 2 teammates with him, either one would have had an uncontested layup but he decided to do that. If he can’t see that, then he shouldn’t be playing.

    I also want to know why the hell Harrow can’t dunk anymore!? I mean the dude was taking it between his legs at Madness and now he barely gets off the floor. In the second half he made a hell of a drive to the basket and I thought for sure he was gonna throw it down. Instead, he threw up some weak layup that didn’t have a chance. Does his legs have mono now?

  63. Doug Yerkes
    9:19 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    since we used to show a similar video clip at Commonwealth why not show this “Cool…” clip at Rupp next home game?

  64. KWHY?
    9:21 am January 16, 2013 Permalink


  65. 47 is dead on
    10:05 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    #47- I was getting ready to type the same exact things you typed in here. I dont think Archie is selfish he is just not used to having other players around him. I think Cal should (when Wiltjers not on floor) run the true DDM offense and when he is do the handoff like they did with knight and harrelson. you could run this with harrow or mays as they are both good shooters and wiltjer could then set the screen and roll or turn and shoot.

  66. whodat
    10:21 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    @63 AG’s eyeballs have issues… jmo.

  67. whodat
    10:35 am January 16, 2013 Permalink

    I posted after the A&M loss thats its time to just relax and lower expectations for this team but FWIW this is my take:
    – Our player with the biggest heart and best motor has one of the poorest offensive skill sets in the rotation: Noel
    – Our player who is the best physical specimen has the worst motor in the rotation: Poythress
    – Our most important player in the rotation missed the first part of the season and is only now finding a groove: Harrow
    – Our best overall offensive threat is also the least athletic player in the rotation: Wiltjer
    – Our best slasher cannot see the floor nor can he pass the ball efficiently: Goodwin
    – One of the best raw athletes in the rotation has the worst basketball skill set: Cawley-Stein
    – We have no lock down defender
    – and then there is Mays

    They will be better come March but the expectations for this group were way too high to start the campaign.

  68. Bluebloodtoo
    12:18 pm January 16, 2013 Permalink

    Hmm….so we found the lineup that works best to close out games and it doesn’t include our leading scorer? Isn’t that interesting? I think we know who isn’t “buying in” to the team concept now.

  69. Coach Kal
    12:36 pm January 16, 2013 Permalink

    I think our offense looked so much smoother after Archie fouled out and we started running our offense thru Kyle. I think we should try this more often!