In a week in which Kentucky played in a strange ballroom South of the Border and seemed to have one of the odder tournament experiences imaginable, they still produced another great memory for UK fans, as the Cats took down Stanford in Overtime, 73-65. It wasnt pretty and the argument could be made that the Cats didnt deserve to win the game. But they did, and it was done with late effort and heart, as an unlikely cast of characters made big plays and John Wall added to the Legend, all the while ducking the chandeleirs hanging from the ceiling. You may not have seen it because of the channel and it is likely no smaller crowd will ever attend a UK game. But the result was a victory and another step in the maturation of one of the more entertaining UK teams in a number of years. It isnt always pretty, but they won and that is what matters. Some notes on the night:
— It isnt often that a guy who scores 7 points in the game is the hero, but for my money Ramon Harris was the star of the night. After the past two games, Calipari has praised Ramon Harris for his defense and toughness and has pointed to him as the model that other players should emulate on the defensive side of the ball. So what does Ramon do to validate those comments? He once again shuts down his man, gets key rebounds and controls the ball in Overtime, scoring a couple of big points early and getting nearly every board in the extra frame. Ramon played 24 minutes and had 7 points and 7 assists…but notice where he was when the game was on the line…on the floor, making the big plays. A great performance from the Alaskan.
— Calipari said after the game that he is happy that his two point guards “are winners.” He liked how Bledsoe and Wall competed, and were out there trying to make the big play when others might have taken a step back. He said that Ramon Harris was “terrific” and Patrick Patterson was great in the second half. While he seemed frustrated by some of the game, he was proud of the winning effort and a gutty performance against a well-coached Stanford team.
— We continue to see the legend of Wall increase. You knew he was going to make those two free throws at the end didnt you? I certainly did. Rarely with a Freshman do you find yourself believing you are in safe hands at the end of the game. But with Wall, I do. He went to the line with ice water in his veins and drained both free throws. While we didnt see his usual amount of highlight plays, we did see him step up when it mattered most…the end of the game is winning time and it is clear that it is also John Wall time.
— If there is a big shot to be taken (and made), you want Eric Bledsoe taking it. When the ball went to Eric, he took the shot knowing he could make it…and he did. Bledsoe had a poor game in general, but you have to love how the kid is always ready and has a total sense of self-belief. That cant really be taught and the rest of his problems (like playing out of control) can be improved. His big winning shots are here to stay.
— It was a top-notch effort from Patrick Patterson once again. If Patrick doesnt play, Kentucky doesnt win. He gutted it out in the second half, making big plays and great passes. His rebounding was poor…and I am sure he knows that and will improve. But he is the leader and he was once again tonight.
— You saw all sides of Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins tonight. He was a force at times, controlling the glass, getting big rebounds and making big shots at big moments. But he lost it a bit at the end. He tried to do too much, took a bad three, airballed a free throw and then missed the second free throw at the end, in what was a poor decision. But even though Calipari nearly blew a gasket, he will learn. And when he is on his game, he is beastly. I love watching him work down low and he is a force this team needs. Controlling his emotions will be key as he goes forward.
This is one of the weirdest UK weeks you will ever see. But it ended up great. A senior leader helped the team win, the Cats got another (odd) trophy to add to the case and Cancun saw its one (and likely only) appearance by the Cats. What a win. Tomorrow, Tucker Max will have his final report from Cancun around noon and we will enjoy the victory. Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving and celebrate. The Cats win and it is fun once again.