photo by Ed Greinke, Washington Post
Tonight was the beginning of the John Calipari era and the game gave the fans what they wanted and needed, a 75-59 victory over visiting Morehead State. The game was a bit sloppy in parts, the Cats played without intelligence at times and the coach found himself frustrated in some moments. But in the end, as Calipari made clear, “we won and that makes me happy.” Here are some game notes:
— The performance that was the most complete was once again that of Patrick Patterson, who got his groove going tonight. Because Morehead State played zone, the Cats actually executed very little of their Dribble-Drive Offense, instead relying on a zone offense that allowed Patterson to play more in his traditional role inside. He responded with 24 points and a dominating performance, that had both coaches praising him after the game. Calipari said “we need Patrick to dominate”, and tonight’s performance was a work towards that end.
Here is Patrick after the game, from John Clay’s video:
— The other story was the remarkable play of Eric Bledsoe, who stole the show in his UK career opener, by scoring 24 point and gathering 7 rebounds. Bledsoe was everywhere, taking the ball to the basket, making great passes to the big men and showing his quickness that makes heads turn. His game was complete, even including three blocked shots that Calipari said were even more impressive as they were “on one leg.” The reaction from most in the crowd mirrored that of Morehead’s coach who said, “if John Wall is better than him, woah.”
— The rest of the UK players had somewhat of a mixed effort. That caused Calipari to say afterwards that there were three starting places determined…that of Patterson, Wall and Bledsoe. After that, it is all open. He mentioned that he has been disappointed with Miller’s play, but hoped it would get better. He wants more effort from Cousins, was disappointed in the performance of Stevenson who took “a step back” according to the Coach and hopes that Dodson learns to take better shots. Calipari said practice over the next two days will determine the starters for Monday night.
— I sat throughout the game in a section with NBA scouts and three themes emerged:
1. They all believe Patterson will be a mid-teens Draft pick and will be a very good player in the league.
2. They were amazed by Bledsoe with one calling him the “revelation” of the game.
3. They are concerned about effort from Cousins and uniformly say that is the most important thing he must show under Calipari for the next level.
— One of the things that I really like about Calipari is the way he analyzes the game afterwards. Tubby and Gillispie had different styles, but neither were reflective after a contest. Calipari tries to break the game down, talking about the players’ defensive positioning being poor during the game, how they were allowing too much distance between them and their man on defense and becoming frustrated with the turnovers due to a lack of positioning. His press conferences are must-sees, which isnt always the case.
— It really is amazing how likeable Eric Bledsoe can be. You root for him in part because of his confidence, which is apparent but doesnt translate into cockiness. Tonight he said that he wants to score “whenever, however” and that he felt he could repeat this performance every game. That confidence is contagious and you can tell Calipari loves it. Here was his quote about him:
“He’s just a gamer. I said to the team, ‘Who on this team takes the game winner and knows it’s going in?’ and I pointed to Eric. Some guys hope it goes in, and he knows it’s going to go in. One of the guys said to me, ‘He’s tired’ and I said, ‘I know, but he’s better than most guys that are fresh, so I’ll leave him in.'”
— Bledsoe was also asked by a reporter about his relationship with John Wall and if he expected to like him when he came on campus. He said, “I thought he might be a jerk” before he came but that he now thinks he is “the nicest guy I know.” When he said that, one UK media person (female) said, “he is so cute.”
— No Dancing Guy in the crowd…disappointing.
— The Eric Bledsoe circus shot was amazing. Get it on YouTube now…please…it goes in the archives.
— I had a great long interaction with Andy Katz, which I will talk more about later this weekend. He was extremely nice and charming and says he reads the site. It is so much tougher when you actually meet the people you write about…looks like all wrath I have will have to be with Doug Gottlieb.
— Rotnei Clarke scored 51 points for Arkansas tonight…51. Gillispie tried to get him but missed….ugh.
— Rider beat Mississippi State. They play Kentucky next Saturday….just remember that.
— The one important bit of information I learned tonight in the pre-game came from Demarcus Cousins. He wants the fans to call him “Boogie”, a name given to him by Coach Rod Strickland. I told him I would pass it on….Boogie it is.
We will have more all day. VANDERBILT LIVE BLOG comes at NOON here on KSR. More reports from the game on there and on the site throughout the day. Big win and a great start to the Calipari era.