Five minutes into today’s game I admit that I wasnt happy about the set of circumstances. It was looking as it Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley were not going to play, Kentucky looked like it was going to have a great deal of difficulty “scoring the ball” (an asinine phrase used by every announcer in every game nowadays) and Rupp Arena seemed to be headed towards the site of a 58-55 slugfest between the Cats and a 4-7 OVC team. But then all of a sudden, an entertaining game broke out and I became strangely enthralled by the process. The lineup of Michael Porter, Ramon Harris, AJ Stewart, Perry Stevenson and Patrick Patterson played with a great deal of intensity throughout the first half and all of the players (besides Patterson) showcased something we had seen little of this year…..offensive capabilities. Porter was hitting a three (and the side of the backboard on a layup), Harris was driving to the hole, AJ was getting post position and Perry was making the FT line jumper. No one could have mistaken this group for the Chicago Bulls, or maybe even the South Florida Bulls, but they were playing hard, diving on the floor and giving effort…..which is really all that you can ask.
As the second half started, we got word that Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford would play, which meant we were set up with the great “will Kentucky look worse with their two most prominent players playing?” And at first, it looked as if it could be yes. In a move that would only happen to the at-times cursed Joe C, he fouled a man shooting a three on his first play in the game and it looked as if a bad script was being written. But then all of a sudden the team clicked. With what is in my opinion, the best lineup that UK can put on the floor right now (Bradley, Crawford, Harris, Stewart, Patterson) in the game, the Cats took over….expanded a small lead to a blowout and gave Cats fans a welcome relief from the moaning and disappointment for Christmas. The intensity remained high, the effort was there throughout and execution continued. Not a perfect game, but a very good one…..which again, is all you can ask.
A few notes….
(1) It may be the case that you can simply cut and paste the following sentence for every game report throughout his career. Patrick Patterson is an amazing player. On a team that is cursed with inconsistency, he is a rock. He is giving a consistent 20 and 12 every night…..EVERY NIGHT. It is unbelievable. No one in America was a bigger Patterson fan when he was in high school than me, but he is even blowing me away with his production this year. He rises to every challenge, leads on the floor and controls the paint. The best low post big man at UK since Bennett is what one guy said to me today….that may even be an understatement. What a special player.
(2) So Billy Clyde said that Bradley and Crawford were “not where they were supposed to be” at a certain time this week, and thus set out the first half. Not knowing the specifics, I wont come down on the guys, but I was impressed with their demeanor. Both guys stayed into the game, cheered on their teammates and did not sulk. And when called to play in the second half, they responded with good performances. Whether this is a turning point or not, this was a good experience for the team and came out a net positive. That is good because when they were late joining the team for warmups, a lot more negative thoughts were buzzed than what ended up being reality.
(3) Huge props to Razor Ramon today. This game typifies why Billy Clyde plays him and is a perfect example of what he can do. He played all 40 minutes, had 8 points and 10 boards, played the best defense on the court and generally limited his mistakes. Ramon is not going to be a star….but he can be a contributor and a defensive specialist. He just must give a few points here and there and not be a turnover machine. Tonight was his best game as a Cat.
(4) You also have to love the performance of AJ Stewart. AJ is one of my favorites on the team and I think he has great potential going forward. But he is a guy who must be given time on the court and allowed to make mistakes. He is behind from a basketball IQ standpoint, but he is a tremendous athlete and has a knack for getting the ball in the basket. Over time he can develop into one of the best 5 on the team…..he just needs the PT….tonight he got it and his performance was strong.
(5) Thanks to the LHL, here is a link to some Billy Clyde postgame comments. Check them out. More later tonight as we move towards Christmas in the Bluegrass…..