Sometimes games are just painful to watch….they sludge along at a fairly constant pace, one team keeping a small cushion on the other so the game doesnt get too exciting and then the game all of a sudden ends, with one team winning by nine and the fans collectively yawning at what they have witnessed. That should have been the story of tonight’s contest. With approximately 15 Auburn fans in attendance, the Cats should have held onto their lead and ended the game with little fanfare and commotion. But at the end of the game, all heck broke loose….with Cats getting over and back calls, throwing away crucial passes and leaving shooters open on defense. A lead that should have been unreachable became a one point game and a contest that should have been over became a nailbiter. However in the end, some timely free throw shooting, a couple of defensive stops and the ultimate friend, the clock, helped the Cats pull out a must-win victory over Auburn in a game that will certainly enter the recesses of nothingness in all Kentucky and both Auburn fans’ minds.
Even though the Cats committed a season high 25 turnovers and at times looked to be giving the ball to Auburn as a charity function, the story of this game is still who didnt play. Remember early in the year when you watched the Cats play Indiana, Louisville and San Diego and you thought to yourself, “this is the worst UK team offensively that I can remember.” Well the lineup on the floor tonight is actually less potent than the one that played back then. There are only two players playing (Crawford and Patterson) who can create their own shot and the loss of Bradley and Meeks means that teams really have no ball handling scoring threat to worry about. I said before the game that for Kentucky to win, they had to score 65 points…period….and they got 66. But it isnt clear that the group that played is much capable of more than 66. I thought Crawford and Patterson needed 20 each, which they essentially got, and that the rest of the team had to combine for 25. Well Stevenson had 10, Harris 9, Porter 6 and Jasper 2. They got what they needed….but only barely.
The bottom line for this team is that when there are injuries, it will be tough to put points on the board. However if the Cats are to make a tournament run, these depleted teams must still WIN….and that they did tonight. While it is very frustrating to watch Perry Stevenson miss a pass or Ramon Harris dribble off his foot, those guys stepped up and did what they couldnt do in December….which was compete enough to pull out a victory. Lets face it, Auburn is bad…..really bad. However they were at home and they play with heart. The team UK has on the floor right now simply cannot score more than 70 points in a game….if that is the case, then if the other team knocks down a few shots, the game is close. That is what happened tonight. The difference is that because of some big shots by Patterson and Crawford and some timely late free throws, the Cats were able to win in a very ugly fashion. If THIS GROUP of Cats we saw tonight are to win games, this is how it has to be….grinding it out, trying to get to 65 and then holding steady at the end. They did that tonight and thus should be praised.
The 76 Hoosiers or 96 Cats this group tonight isnt. But they are winning right now when they have to….at this point that is all we can ask.