In front of just over 17,000 fans at their makeshift “neutral court” at Freedom Hall, Kentucky faced a team starting five seniors and came away looking like the veteran squad. The Cats got caught into a slower game than they’ve shown themselves to be accustomed to playing at any point this season and did all the things good teams do to win games against solid opponents (defense, rebounding, free throws). Calipari’s squad bounced back nicely from a loss to North Carolina that seemed to raise a number of flags. With this win, confidence is again high as they get ready to face an overmatched Indiana squad on Saturday. But, before we start talking Hoosiers, let’s close the book on the Irish…
– Again, Kentucky was carried by the law firm of Jones and Knight. Jones, who put together what Calipari called afterward “a beastly game had 27 points and 17 rebounds against an Irish frontline, while Knight added 20 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists, while matching his season-low in turnovers with two. For Kentucky to win a game against anyone this season, these two have to be on their game. On Wednesday, they were. We can talk all day about getting a third person to step up or finding enough points from the rest of the guys to fill in the holes, but it all starts with the two star freshmen for the Cats. Against Notre Dame, Jones attacked an athletically limited frontline from the start of the game with a healthy mix of moves down low and with penetration to the basket. And, yes, he even knocked down two big threes. The nature of his game allows him to create mismatches against nearly every player he will face this season, but it’s up to him to properly exploit that. He did that to perfection on Wednesday.
– Darius Miller has now played 82 college basketball games and . Disappearius Miller was again on the floor for the Cats Wednesday night in the first half as he contributed 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 field goal attempts and 1 assist. For over two years now, it seems like we’ve wondered what the deal is with Miller and when he is going to finally take the next step as a player. Now, you have to wonder if we’re getting dangerously close to just giving him the “he’s good for what he is” treatment. But, for a guy who entered school as the nation’s #42 overall player, his ceiling should be higher and the expectations that have been placed on him, which are now at this point just playing third fiddle, should be easily attainable. If Kentucky is going to grow into the team they want to be, he has to become more consistent. Not great, just consistent. But, it’s fair to start wondering if that is ever going to happen.
– Speaking of “he’s good for what he is”, Josh Harrellson had another good outing on the boards. Jorts grabbed nine rebounds while scoring 0 points, but, like his teammates, showed the promise of taking the next step. After picking up two fouls early on in the game and heading to the bench, it appeared that he was doomed for another night of pine, but he entered the game and went foul-lesss the remainder of the way. His 20 minutes weren’t spectacular, but they were productive in one of the primary areas that he’s expected to contribute.
– How about Stacey Poole and Jon Hood each knocking down a three? That was nice.
– As was mentioned earlier, the key to coming out of Freedom Hall with a win was the improved defense that held Notre Dame to one field goal in a pivotal 15-minute stretch that pushed the Cats from down nine to up nine. The Cats were able to lock down Ben Hansbrough, who scored 19 points in the first half, with a box and one and the entire team seemed to be invested in the defensive effort for the first time since the early cupcakes.
– Another impressive stat to come out the game was the battle of the boards. Kentucky out-rebounded the nation’s #12 rebounding team 40-33. After getting beaten on Saturday by the country’s 14th-best rebounding team, it was a positive sign for a young team that will need to be committed to team rebounding in order to be successful. They did struggle at the end of the game on the defensive end when they allowed Notre Dame to grab four offensive rebounds before knocking it out of bounds and giving it back to the Irish, but it was a solid team effort overall.
– One thing I wanted to watch for in this game was what Mark Krebs talked about on the Kentucky Sports TV show earlier this week about how Kentucky responded to bad possessions. While it was partially dicated by the pace that Notre Dame settled the game into, Kentucky did not seem to be rattled by their turnovers and played comfortably on the offensive end after making mistakes. There were still a couple of back-to-back bad plays, but, overall, you there was a marked improvement from Saturday’s contest.
– Do not panic. Brandon Knight is not injured. He is fine.
– If there’s a more irritating random player of the past five or six years than Ben Hansbrough, I don’t know who it is. After knocking down big shot after big shot in the first half, “Psycho B” was flashing pistols and telling the crowd to be quiet and running back to the bench during timeouts like he just clinched a Final Four berth.
– An interesting note on Hansbrough: He scored 21 points against UK on Wednesday. His brother totaled 27 in three games against the Cats.
– After the NCAA frees Enes, they should free Mike Brey’s nipples next. They’re slowly suffocatin to death under that stretched-out stretch fit mock turtleneck.
– With 6:49 left in the second half, Brandon Knight took a charge. It was the second one the Cats have taken all year.
That’s it. It’s late. Let’s just agree to talk some more on Thursday. I love you.