For Kentucky basketball, what constitutes the preseason ended tonight. In front of 15,000 UK fans in Louisville, the Cats won easily over winless UNC Asheville, 94-57. There were a number of highlights to the game, most of which we will get to, but the reality is that the game represented the last tuneup before the three game stretch in which we learn who the Cats are and where they rank nationally. Kentucky scored pretty much at ease and absent a few defensive lapses, dominated all phases of the game. They got an easy win, moved to 7-0, and now find North Carolina in their sights come Saturday. Before we get there however, lets look a bit at the game:
— For me the story of the game was the record-setting performance of John Wall. Tonight Wall ensured that he will live in UK record books, as he broke the Freshman Single Game Assist record for a game with 14. That is one shy of the all-time record, and broke the Freshman mark set by Rhoderick Rhodes in 1993. Wall dominated both ends of the court and seemed determined to throw a lob pass to nearly every player on the court. He continued a quest to become only the second player to ever get a triple-double in a game, however he did it in a unique way, with 12 points, 14 rebounds and 6 steals…quite a feat. Once again he showed that his continued collection of SEC Freshman of the Week honors, might never end.
— The biggest kid on the team, Demarcus Cousins, also ended up with a whale of a game, thanks to his new-found free throw stroke. Cousins finished with 24 points and 12 boards, and after the game all the talk was about his 8-10 free throw shooting performance. After his misses in Cancun, Calipari worked with Boogie on his stroke, shortening it and forcing Cousins to shoot 500 free throws over the course of two practices. Mission accomplished…at least for one game and Calipari’s confidence was shown to such a degree that Cousins even shot the free throws on a technical, the first time he says he ever remembers doing that in a game. The statistics Cousins put up were in only 17 minutes of action…he truly can, when he focuses, put up crazy numbers.
— The Cats shot the three pointer exceptionally well, continuing a pattern that has really existed all year. It was assumed that three point shooting would be the team’s weakness, but thanks to good performances from Dodson, Miller, Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson, three point shooting has become a team strength. Calipari noted in the postgame press conference that he cant remember a team shooting like this for him so early. If it continues, they will be hard to beat.
— After the game, Cal acknowledged that the less than capacity crowd would make it more difficult for him to convince UK officials to bring more games here. But in the pregame he said he hoped to paint Freedom Hall Blue after the Cards move out and he acknowledged after that he would still fight to bring games every year to the biggest city in Kentucky.
— Calipari also said that John Wall is farther advanced at this point than either Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans, at the same point in their careers at Memphis. High praise indeed.
— You could tell in the locker room that the players are ready to play UNC. John Wall talked about how big a game it would be for him, as he played the hometown team that did not recruit him or offer him a ride. Demarcus Cousins said the UNC and Alabama games (due to his home state) were the two games he most looked forward to on the schedule. Daniel Orton said that when he saw the schedule, the UNC game was the one he pointed to, and now it was here and he is ready to go. Wall noted that this would be the first game seen nationally, and you can tell that the entire team is ready for that spotlight.
Generally speaking, it was a pretty low key night in Freedom Hall. UNC Asheville was overmatched and the Cats generally dominated. DeAndre Liggins again didnt play, and besides that, there were no surprises. Everyone’s focus is now on North Carolina, and for us that story and the bowl game possibilities will fill the week.
We also released tonight’s EPISODE 5 of the KSR PODCAST. It has Chinese journalist Laodu, who is covering the Cats for a Chinese media outlet this year, Woo, old KSR favorites like the Turkey Hunter and Tomlin, and the new guys like Drew Franklin and Will Lentz. It is a good, old-school goofy show, so check it out below or (even better for us and you) subscribe to the podcast right here. We will have more all day: