It was close for a couple of minutes to start the game, but the Cats came alive after being down 10-9 and finished the first half up 54-26 en route to a 100-71 blowout of the sixteenth-seeded Buccaneers of East Tennessee State. Patrick Patterson had 22 and John Wall had 17, but it was Eric Bledsoe who got all buc wild on ETSU, finishing with 29 points and 8 of Kentucky’s 15 made three-pointers. The Cats now await the winner of the Texas-Wake Forest game.
Full summary on the way…
– In a game full of highlights, it was clear the night belonged to Eric Bledsoe. The freshman from Alabama set a school tournament record by knocking down 8 three-pointers, topping Tony Delk’s 1996 title game total by one. Bledsoe would finish the game with 29 points on 9-11 shooting from the field and appears to finally snapped out of a five-game funk that saw him average 7 points per game and shoot 29% from the field from Feb. 16 through March 3. In his last five games, Bledsoe has put up 16 points per game on 61% shooting from the field. When Bledsoe is clicking, the Cats are nearly impossible to beat.
– In his first career NCAA tournament win, Patrick Patterson looked rock solid in putting up 22 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. So much has been made of Patterson not getting a decent shot in the tournament and his nerves leading up to the game, that it was nice to see the young man settle in and do work. He was unstoppable on the blocks and displayed a number of nice moves, which helped him shoot a blistering 9-10 from the field.
– Also playing his first tournament game, John Wall looked like a Player of the Year, putting up 17 points and 11 assists. It’s easy to look at John Wall’s game and shrug it off with a “he’s supposed to do that” attitude, but you could tell throughout the game that Wall knew that this game was more about playing out the clock. He looked to get his teammates involved and run sets that are going to help them down the road. He’s developed throughout the year into much more of a leader on the floor, rather than a sensational point guard and you could see both on display Thursday night.
– The most surprising stat of the night (non-three point category)? DeMarcus Cousins took only two shots, making one and finishing with five points. What is more important than Cousins’ five points or his fouls situation is that he still found a way to be a positive contributor to the game without scoring. Boogie pulled down 8 rebounds and blocked four shots and even dished out four dimes. Plus, he knocked down three out of his four free throws. That’s a pretty positive evening – even with only two field goal attempts.
– One quick note on the team’s three-point shooting, which finished 15-33 (45.5%). So much has been made about this team having such a horrible three-point percentage and people have, I think, mistakenly judged this team as poor shooters. Keep in mind that at about the halfway point of the season, this team had the best three-point percentage of any team in UK history. It took some truly horrible games (which I think can partially be blamed on tired freshmen legs) to bring it down. They’re still too streaky for my liking, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they cannot shoot the deep ball. They can. And when they do, they are unbeatable.
– In the type of stat that will make a coach get that lovey-dovey butterfly feeling in his stomach, Kentucky had 27 assists on 31 baskets. Abdsurdly impressive.
– The most frustrating thing about this team this year is that they’ve seemed (at least late in the year) to have trouble getting fired up for lesser opponents and coming out aggressive. Give credit to Cal on Thursday, though, Kentucky played with emotion and the type of intensity I didn’t think we’d see from them against a #16 seed. If that’s the sign of effort to come the rest of the tournament, you have to feel good about that.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more tourney goodness throughout the night and morning. It looks like the Cats will have Wake Forest and the Konner Tucker Band’s former teammates as of now, but it’s March. Anything can happen!
The patented Beisner jinx has struck! Bring on the Longhorns!
The patented Beisner jinx has struck again! Bring on the Demon Deacons!