Today was the day that we all witnessed the apparent return of the real Terrence Jones to the court for Kentucky, as he poured in 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting and flashed the all-around game that makes him the player he is. Obviously it remains to be seen whether this was really his coming back out party and he’ll spend the rest of the season playing like the All-American he was projected to be, or whether it’s just a blip on the radar and he’ll revert to being the player that has frustrated us for much of the season. For today, though, we got the performance that we’ve been waiting for from Jones and can’t be anything but optimistic about his outlook, and the possibility moving forward for the team to reach its potential with him at full bore.
Now we’ll hit a few notes before I tuck you all in for the night…
–There are a few negatives to nitpick from what was mostly a solid performance from Kentucky this afternoon, but the one that this bullet point will focus on is offensive rebounding. Kentucky was outrebounded 32-27 overall on the day, but that margin was mainly created by South Carolina holding a 16-6 advantage on the offensive glass. The Cats hit five more field goals than USC, but took a full 15 fewer shots because they allowed the Cocks to pull down entirely too many offensive boards. For as good a defensive team as Kentucky is, in order to get the most out of their defensive capabilities they can’t allow teams to post similar offensive rebounding margins – and the second chance points that come with them – in the future. It’s all a part of the growing and toughening process that this team will have to go through in conference play, but it’s something they’ll have to shore up against good teams, which South Carolina most certainly is not, if they want to compete for a national championship.
–There were a couple of other big performances in Lexington this evening, as UK commits Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress put on a show for their teams against some local competition. We’ll have a little more from their trip tomorrow, but for now just know that they both went ham at Lexington Catholic. Goodwin posted 37 points and 12 boards in his team’s overtime loss to the host school, while Poythress went off for 42 points and 6 rebounds in a win over Lafayette. Those guys can flat out play, and after tonight I think everyone is looking forward to them doing full-time work in Lexington next fall a little bit more.
–In SEC news from the day, there were a couple of surprises in the first weekend of conference play, the most unexpected of which was Florida dropping their SEC opener to Tennessee 67-56 in Knoxville. The game is as much a feather in the cap of Tennessee as it is an indictment of Florida as the Final Four contender people believed they could be before the season. The Gators haven’t beaten a team that’s currently ranked in the top 25 this season and have lost two inexplicable games to Rutgers and the Vols in the last two weeks. They are explosive, but flawed, and don’t look much like the challenger to Kentucky that they were pegged to be before the year. We’ll see if they get together. In another surprise, Mississippi State lost to Arkansas by 10 in Fayetteville and at least for the day doesn’t look anything like the team that’s been on the rise for the past few weeks. In more expected results, Vanderbilt beat Auburn by 30, LSU beat Ole Miss and Alabama bested Georgia in the conference opener for each.
–Louisville. Yikes. I don’t know if it’s worse that they lost to an awful Notre Dame team as a double-digit favorite, that it took them until the second overtime to break 60 points, that they failed repeatedly in potentially game ending situations on both ends, or that Rick Pitino shed his tie down the stretch in favor of the Porcini after hours look. Whichever it is, Louisville has lost three out of four, including two straight at home, and is in full on free-fall mode. I feel sorry for them, really I do. Ok. No I don’t.
–The only team to have a worse Saturday than the Cards? It had to be my Cincinnati Bengals, who got flat out run over in Houston. After looking ready to go into the half at no worse than a 10-10 tie, they fell victim to this and never recovered. The future is bright for the Bengals, but the present feels pretty awful. On the NFC side, the Saints overcame some early troubles against Detroit and currently hold a 17-point lead in the Superdome.
That’ll do it for the evening. I’ll be around in the morning to guide you through your Sunday, so until then, sleep tight.