Forgive me if you have heard this headline before. Cats struggle, but nevertheless win over Santa Clara in a game that left all a bit underwhelmed. Santa Clara, a team that showcased how it had the ability to win by 16 on the road last week at Stanford, came into Rupp Arena and gave a spirited fight, only to lose going away in the last few minutes of the game. The Cats were led once again by the simply remarkable Randolph Morris who had 23 points and a career high 13 rebounds, continuing to establish himself as one of the top 5 big men in the country. He scored virtually at will, and imposed his way on the backboard in leading the Cats to victory. Here are my impressions of the game, both positive and negative:
(1) Randolph Morris continues to be not only a season saver, but is establishing himself as the best low-post Cat of the Tubby Smith era. Tuesday saw Randolph showcasing his impressive array of post-up moves and utilizing something often lacking in his game…..a fiery determination to dominate the paint. Morris got virtually every big rebound in the game and did so often by utilizing his muscle….something all too often lacking from his game. His fifteen first half points accounted for half of the team’s total and cemented him as something that is truly rare in college basketball…..a center who is his team’s go to scorer.
(2) While the offense still looked flat and occasionally out of sync, it was nevertheless a slightly better version of offensive efficiency than we saw the last three games. UK got open shots and did not turn the ball over…..well at least not an absurd amount. The ball movement (while not great) was better and it did look like the Cats were seeking to find open teammates. There was still often WAYYYY too much dribbling and lowering the head bulldozing, but some improvement could be seen….which is something.
(3) Ramel Bradley showed the Good Smooth/Bad Smooth that we as Kentucky fans are just going to have to accept from our point/shooting guard. In the first half, Bradley often looked out of control and contributed to the offense’s stagnant motion with his pounding dribbling, scoring no points in the process. In the second half Ramel showed his offensive flavor, scoring fourteen points and hitting key shots from all over the court…..including a three that all but iced the game. Ramel is Ramel…..he is inconsistent and frustrating…..but he can score when no one else can…..a trait that cant be overlooked on a struggling offensive team.
(4) It was another in a string of bizarrely inefficient performances by Bobby Perry. Now in his senior season, Perry is slowly drifting away from the lineup, tallying another goose egg in the scoring department. Watching Bobby these last few games has made me somewhat sad as I know how much this team and season mean to him. However he is simply off of his game, missing easy shots, getting beat on defense and looking nothing like the player I watched play in high school in Durham, NC. As this season moves on, we are seeing less and less of Perry and more and more of Meeks…..I want Bobby to succeed, but his time is running out.
(5) Another strong performance from the supporting cast. The freshmen all played well with each showcasing some of their strong traits. Jodie Meeks had nine as he establishes himself as a central contributor in the go-to final five. Derrick Jasper shot free throws as a point guard must, going 6-8. Michael Porter continued to showcase strong minutes and made a big three pointer. And Perry Stevenson gave athleticism and energy during his time. And Old Man Woo continued his torrid pace, draining two big jumpers in the first half. Good performances all and exactly what UK needs going forward.
So all in all, a decent, although not great performance. For UK to be good this year, Joe Crawford simply must score more and play better offensively. He isnt developing into the scoring machine this team needs and he must make that happen over the next two to three weeks. This team is better than last year’s team. It is good, but not great. The only chance it has at reaching a consistently high level of performance and making itself into a contender is for Joe to become the star he knows he can be. That should be our holiday wish.
Watch at lunch for EPISODE 18 of the Show. We were joined tonight by the usual crew, including Ravi Moss. And our Special guest this week was none other than your favorite announcer Billy Packer. You know thats gonna be fun…..enjoy