A nice beginning to the Billy Clyde era at Kentucky tonight as the Wildcats defeated the Bears by 27 (one short of covering the spread) in front of a lackluster crowd at Rupp Arena on Election Night. The Cats were led by Joe Crawford, who finished with 20 points and Mark Coury, who continued his early-season stellar play with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Cats struggled on offense, but swarmed on defense, holding the Bears to under 25% shooting for the game. The 40 points allowed is the lowest for a first game of the season since 1948. Some early takes on the game…..
(1) I am extremely happy from what we have seen so far from Joe Crawford. I have been worried all along that Joe would take the decision to have him come off the bench poorly and possibly ruin his effectiveness this year. The exact opposite has been the case. Joe has come in focused in all three games so far, and has played excellent on both ends of the floor. Tonight he goes for 20 in limited minutes and was clearly the best player on the floor throughout. No one can take the ball to the basket like Crawford and he showcased how effective he can be against teams who attempt to pressure the Cats. The bottom line is that Kentucky cant be a great team without Joe C….and early signs are that he is ready to be a big contributor.
(2) What can you say about the Coury Flurry? Here is a kid who is a walk-on who played almost none last year and now he opens the season with 13 points, 10 rebounds and the honor of playing more minutes than any other player on the floor. I love the guy because of his intelligence and hustle, but even I didnt see this coming. Folks get used to it though, because as it stands now, he will be a big factor all season. He plays extremely intelligently and rarely tries to do anything he cant…..Billy Clyde loves that and you end up with what you had tonight…..an effective performance that leaves everyone pleased. Sure, he will struggle against more athletic players….but he is doing all that can be asked now, and you have to be pleased.
(3) The Billy Clyde substitution patterns continued the exact flow we saw during the exhibition season….mainly that we have no idea what will happen. How many of you thought that you would see Kerry Benson and the Big Black Member before you saw Joe Crawford and Perry Stevenson? Well you did. How many of you thought Coury would lead the team in minutes or that Michael Porter would be such an integral part of the offense? How about no minutes for AJ Stewart? Folks, Billy Clyde is living up to one promise…..everyone on the team has a role and he will try to play as many as possible. I for one love that and think it does WONDERS for team chemistry.
(4) Poor Jared Carter……maybe lost his spot tonight to one Big Black Member….who looked fairly strong in his debut.
(5) This is what you will see from this team this year. The team will struggle at times on offense, but will bring it every night with pressure defense. There are going to be low point totals, but there will be trapping and aggressive half-court defense that will lead to easy baskets when the shots arent going down (like tonight). The inside play is going to vary…..but considering the Cats really never had Patrick Patterson, the 19 total from Coury, Member and Stevenson is not bad for a substitute. Between Meeks, Joe C and Bradley, two of the three need to be on for a great game and tonight the Cats only had Joe C and a partial game from Bradley. We will see lots of scores like this over the year…..but from a defensive perspective, one has to be pleased.
More post-game overview late tonight, complete with notes and quotes…..