With only seven scholarship players on its roster, Vanderbilt needed a bad game from Kentucky if the Commodores were going to have any chance at all. Kentucky wasn’t at its best on Saturday, but still good enough to escape the haunted hallows of Memorial Gym with a 71-62 victory.
Let’s discuss it and then put it behind us before Kevin Stallings says something dumb. He’s the worst.
Andrew Harrison is your Wildcat Player of the Game.
It’s no surprise Andrew Harrison was named “Wildcat Player of the Game” after word got out he had an outstanding practice in Nashville on Friday. Kentucky’s freshman point guard said he made a point to go harder and be a leader in the pre-Vandy practice at Lipscomb University, which Calipari called his team’s best practice of the season, and that mentality carried over to the game.
Harrison finished with 10 points and four assists while tying a career-high in rebounds with eight. And maybe his most impressive stat: zero turnovers.
Coach Cal said, “Andrew did it all today.”
Alex Poythress roared again.
Poythress had another great game off the bench as that newfound confidence showed up in Nashville on Saturday, just down the road from his hometown. He was a huge factor in the second half, scoring all nine of his points in the final 12 minutes, and he made the effort plays we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him this season.
The big dunk — ROAR! — with five minutes left in the game stretched the UK lead to 13 and should’ve been the dagger, but he was called for a technical foul (delay of game) for bouncing the ball toward the defender after the flush. Vandy scored five points on its next possession with the extra free throws to negate Poythress’ big play.
After the game Andrew Harrison spoke very highly of his teammate. He said, “Alex doesn’t know how good he is. Once he figures it out, he can be one of the best players in the country.”
“Alex Poythress, today? THAT’S the guy I recruited,” said Calipari.
Willie Cauley-Stein showed the NBA some things today.
Calipari also had great things to say about Willie Cauley-Stein, who helped his draft stock quite a bit in Memorial Gym on Saturday. Willie’s steal and fast break dunk will almost certainly make his NBA draft highlight video next summer — what a play from the big man.
It’s clear Willie has put in a lot of work on his offensive game since last season. That jump hook, almost unbearable to watch a year ago, is now a legitimate scoring option. He used it a couple times against Vandy to go 7-of-9 from the field for a team-high 15 points.
Derek Willis and Jarrod Polson got some clock thanks to Vanderbilt’s zone defense.
Willis played six meaningful minutes, a career-high, and got off a couple three-point tries while he was in. Calipari said he went with Willis when Vanderbilt showed zone because he needed another shooter out there, and Willis wasn’t hesitant to let ‘er rip.
That zone is also why we saw only five minutes out of Dominique Hawkins and more time from Jarrod Polson. It worked, too, because Polson knocked down two big threes in the first half. He played 14 minutes, scored six points, and earned Wilmore a shout-out on the television broadcast.
Julius Randle needs to get over these “cramps.”
Randle had another quiet game by his standards and spent time in the locker room, again, for those damn cramps. I don’t leave my couch so it’s tough for me to speak on the issue, but can’t we get the man some bananas and Gatorade? John Wall had the same problem during SEC play in 2010 so maybe those two should go out for dinner to talk about it. Maybe to a banana restaurant with unlimited Gatorade.
Julius did, however, dominate the boards in the first half, finishing with 11 in the game but three points shy of a double-double. He had 10 rebounds to Vanderbilt’s nine with four minutes left in the first half.
I’m not ready to discuss how good Kentucky looks without Randle in the game — not yet, at least.
You don’t have to shoot that every time, James.
Young, man, he likes to fire. His confidence beyond the arc is admirable, something all good shooters have, but sometimes it’s OK to keep the finger off the trigger. Young was 1-for-7 from downtown, many of those contested, and 2-for-10 from the field overall for six points.
He’s doing that falling-away thing again, too.
Greg Anthony didn’t study his game notes.
Dakari Jones? Willie McCauley-Stein?
The oddsmakers in Vegas are incredible.
Kentucky opened as an 8-point favorite in Vegas and won the game, 71-62. John Short’s spread was 10 bigguns, just missing out on back-to-back covers.
Coach Cal called out Jerry Tipton for a dumb question.
In the postgame press conference, Tipton asked Jarrod Polson why he entered the game and Coach Cal interrupted, saying, “That is a pretty dumb question. That may be one of those ones, Jerry, that’s a Hall of Fame question out of you.”
Tipton responded, “They’re all Hall of Famers to me.”
“We have the biggest upside of any team in the country.”
Cal said, “I like my team, I like our progress. We have the biggest upside of any team in the country. We do. We’re the youngest team in the country. That’s what we are. And I just got to try to be patient, when I have none, but do what I can to try to keep these guys – and there’s a line between what you accept and building them up. You can’t start building them up if they’re doing things that are unacceptable. And that was about a month ago. It was all unacceptable. But everybody saw it. Now, they’re playing, they’re doing things that we want them to do, but every once and awhile they’ll break down. You know, you can deal with that.”
Go Cats, everybody.