When I walked into Rupp Arena today, I was shocked by some of the sights that were there. First, it was a capacity crowd as everyone used their “Christmas Gift” ticket from the season ticket holders who did not want them. Second, Gimel Martinez was in attendance and told me that he was a fan of the website…..since Gimel and his fouls were one of my first early Kentucky loves, I could not have been happier. And then third, I was pleasantly surprised to see Mike Jarvis coaching the opposing team. How did I miss Jarvis becoming the coach down there? I have always found Jarvis bizarrely fascinating, with his “Black guy with a Boston accent” dichotomy that throws me off every time. Jarvis is very articulate and amazingly funny, as shown by his great post-game press conference that made me wish for an SEC job for the guy. It was great to see the former George Washington/St Johns coach at the game and his attendance showed that the Owls would come to play, which they clearly did.
Unlike most of the postgame reaction (including that from Larry Glover, who seems to have completely gone off the deep end), I didnt think the Cats played all that badly. The game was close, but I think that had to do more with UK’s horrid shooting from three point land, rather than any mistakes they made throughout. The Cats had multiple wide open looks, and they simply didnt make them. Whereas Florida Atlantic hit many contested shots, especially those in the lane, that actually didnt do Kentucky’s relatively solid defense justice. No one had an answer for Graham for Florida Atlantic until the end, but other than that, I thought the Cats did a pretty solid job. There is always a time for handwringing and the thought that the world is going to end, but this struck me as a rather odd day to engage in it.
On that note, some tidbits……
— Its easy to take for granted just how good Patrick Patterson is, but we really should not. Tonight was another great game for the big guy…..over 27 points again, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, a couple of assists, all while playing nearly the entire game. Patterson is a beast and as Mike Jarvis said in the postgame, “there is not a coach in America that would not like to have him on their team.” With the amazing shooting streak that Meeks went on recently, it has been easy to forget just how good Patrick can be…..27 points on 75% shooting tonight reminded us yet again.
— And as for Jodie Meeks, you know you are having quite a year when you score 18 points and shoot over 50% and people say you had a down game. Meeks took less shots, in large part because the Owls decided after six minutes to target him and make other guys beat them….which the Cats were not able to do. Jodie didnt drive to the hole like he should and his defense wasnt quite up to par, causing a rather subpar game for the young man. Still, he is solid and the coaches would just like to see him penetrate more.
— If I told you that the minutes would show Patterson with 40, Meeks with 37 and then Porter with 27 and Landon Slone with 25 next, would you have believed me? Well it happened and the two young men had big games. Billy Gillispie said afterwards that Porter is playing great at this time and was very pleased with him tonight. He was put on Graham as a last resort and likely played the best defense of anyone on the team on the guy. His defense, which has usually been so poor, was a difference maker and the last four games for the young man have been top-notch.
— As for Slone, a great game for the Eastern Kentuckian. He did miss four three pointers, but he played solid defe4nse and was all over the floor throughout the game. You have to like the hustle from the young man, who said afterwards that he was “kinda surprised” to get all the minutes that he did tonight. However he made the most of it and if one of those threes had gone in, the place would have erupted.
— One has to wonder if Razor Ramon is still healthy as he looked a step slow again tonight in his early minutes. Gillispie said afterwards that he wasnt sure he was 100% and Razor had a tough game at the beginning. I hope he gets fully back healthy, as he was carried out of practice yesterday and looked slow again today.
— Kevin Galloway was kicked out of practice yesterday and saw only three minutes of action today. A tough step back for a guy who had done so well.
— Matt Pilgrim was also kicked out of practice yesterday and was not with the team on the bench today as he has been at all other home games. Gillispie was asked afterwards if Pilgrim was still on the team and he answered yes, but gave no further response on the subject as to why he wasnt there today.
— I got a great message from a friend tonight who asked how Kentucky could be so solid in its continued search far and wide for short white guards who cant shoot. In all seriousness though, Slone looked tight on his shot…..I expect it to get better.
— Perry Stevenson has to be a nation leader in uncontested dunks that lead him to pull his legs high up in the air as he throws them down. Andre Riddick would be proud.
— After the game, Gillispie was watching Vee Sanford and another freshman for Lexington Catholic at the Republic Bank Tournament at Lexington Catholic. He came straight from the game and caught the team’s action, in which the freshman (Beckham) showed why he is going to be a GREAT player in this state.
I am finally back from my Christmas sabbatical and will be around all day tomorrow and next week. We count down to a live blog of the Central Michigan game and then its Liberty Bowl and Louisville game time……should be a fun week.