What struck me most about the Louisville and Indiana games in the tournament is how differently we played than when we met each team during the regular season. In the first meeting with Indiana, we trailed earlier and clawed our way back in to lose at the horn. In the tournament, we held the lead from the start and rode an incredibly efficient offensive performance to victory. When we played Louisville in December, we outrebounded them by 21 and made 32 free throws on our way to a seven point victory. In the tournament, they outrebounded us and we needed a heroic shooting percentage from the field to make up for an abysmal performance from the line.
Now in our third rematch game in the last four, we face a Kansas team that we beat in New York during the first week of the regular season. In that game, the Cats and Jayhawks were tied after the first twenty minutes but we outscored them by ten in the second half to put them away. Part of our first half struggles had to do with the remarkably poor play of Marquis Teague. He turned the ball over six times and only had one point. However, in the second half he poured in eleven points and didn’t turn the ball over once. His improved play helped UK shoot out to a nine point lead by the first TV timeout of the second half and we never looked back from there.
I expect to see more of second half Teague tonight. In addition, I expect a lot more production from our bench than we saw in the first meeting. When we played in Madison Square Garden, Darius Miller only saw 20 minutes of court time and, as Dick Vitale loudly noted over and over again, we barely saw Kyle Wiltjer. While Thomas Robinson insists that Anthony Davis isn’t Superman, I hope he’s able to pull Jeff Withey away from the basket and drive on him. It’s something that Davis didn’t utilize early in the season but his expanded skill set is enough to torch the clumsy footed Withey.
The game in November saw all five starters finish with double digit point totals. If we can get that kind of balance again then it will mean that both Terrence and MKG have their heads on straight. If that’s the case then Robinson is going to have to get his eyes checked because he’ll be seeing Supermen all over the court for UK. If we can reduce the turnovers that plagued us in the first half of the first game while still bringing our patented defensive intensity, then we should be celebrating tonight.
I love this team and this season has been a fantastic ride. No matter what happens tonight, thank you for reading and letting me share this experience with you. It has been truly unforgettable.