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Gritty

Going into this weekend, I had a bit of a sinking feeling. It had little to do with the play on the court for Kentucky, it had been a bit disappointing, but not cataclysmic. No, my sinking feeling had more to do with the importance of the games being played in Las Vegas. I firmly believed heading into Friday night that these were the two most important games of the non-conference schedule. With a weaker than average non-conference slate, and the chance to pick up big wins few and far between (really if you assume a loss to Louisville, only Miami remains), these two games were HUGE. Thus I made a decision for myself…..if somehow the Cats could pull these two games out, no matter how badly they played or how the games were managed, I would be happy.

Fast forward to today. We saw some UGLY basketball in Las Vegas. The second half of the Kansas State game and the first half of the West Virginia game was about as bad as it gets. BUT, the Cats won both and I think that is cause of celebration. Yes, the team blew a big lead on Friday and looked anemic on offense on Saturday, but they showed huge amounts of grit and won two games that will be crucial come March when seeding is announced. In so doing, we saw a lot of ups and downs, both on and off the court, but in the end the team came together and pulled out a couple of significant victories.

While both wins were big, the game last night will loom huge for the rest of the year. West Virginia is a potential tournament team that has the ability to have a good season. The Big East is a monster this year, so their win total wont be out of the park, but the team plays hard defense, has some shooters and can beat you with athleticism. They will be right there come tournament time and they had the potential to give Kentucky fits. Kentucky never found its groove offensively, but defensively they played wonderfully, and in giving Bobby Huggins a loss, they produced a victory that will be on the list of big wins at the end of the year.

So while things werent perfect, I cant spend too much time complaining. They won their first pre-season tournament since 1996 (that amazed me by the way), and head back with two big wins. A couple of notes on last night…..

— It really is important that we realize how historically significant what Jodie Meeks is currently doing is in the grand scheme of UK basketball. He is currently averaging around 26 points a game, a number that puts him in the clouds in UK history. It is the most points in a six game stretch for UK since Issel, the most points for a UK guard since the 1950s and with his lowest total being 19 on the season, there is no sign that it will stop. Prepare to see records broken by Jodie this year.

— Please get Patterson the ball more….please. I watched the game last night with Bobby Perry and on two occasions, he paused it and showed plays where Patterson had his man sealed and his teammates simply didnt get him the ball. Look for that pass and another 6-8 points a game are a given.

— I liked seeing Patrick get nasty and in a guy’s face last night.

— How bout the Jorts? Comes off the bench and gets a double-double, and finishes down low on most opportunities. I dont know what has happened to Perry Stevenson, but against some teams (he will struggle with more athletic big men), it is clear that Jorts is the more effective offensive player.

— If Gillispie and the team can deal with the Liggins situation, then the media and fans should as well. The quote on the post below suggests the coach’s position and absent any other revelation, I think that puts the story to bed. When Liggins is playing well, he is the better answer at point guard….now we have to see whether that can be sustained.

— Right now you can see that if it were up to Gillispie, he would like to play Liggins, Meeks, Patterson and then Miller or Harris, Stevenson or Harrellson, depending on matchups and who is playing well on that day.

— Big weekend for Galloway eh?

— The referees the entire weekend were beyond dreadful on both ends of the court.

— When Liggins, Harris, Miller, Stevenson and Porter dribble, it is almost unwatchable. We turn the ball over a lot, but with this team’s ball-handling skills it is amazing we dont turn it over more. I dont see that improving much as the season progresses, so we should just learn to love it.

— I like the lob pass over the top to Patterson, but the guys shouldnt throw it from outside the NBA three point line. Four turnovers last night on such attempts.

— Regardless of anything else, this team is Top 10 in the nation defensively. I dont care the opponent, if you are playing a BCS team and hold them to 43 points, that is quite an accomplishment. Defensively this team has the potential to be GREAT…..offensively there are many struggles, but the defense is off the charts good.

More throughout the night, as we get back in our regular swing and talk about our man Jorts….the phenomenon is building….

Article written by Matt Jones