1) Offensive Struggles:This team is certainly a better shooting team than last years squad, but they are probably not as good offensively. Today they never seemed to get into offensive rhythm. So much so, Josh Harrelson was UK’s leading scorer going into halftime. Lucky for Kentucky, they were athletic enough to get 1-on-1 scores and they cashed in big time at the free throw line. But, this team still has not found its offense yet, something that will need to be figured out for this team to go far.
2) Liggins and Harrelson:The question about who was UK’s third option on offense may have partly been solved tonight. It seems when Brandon Knight and/or Terrence Jones is off the floor, Deandre Liggins becomes the go-to guy. He was likely the MVP of this game, hitting key shots in the last 10 minutes. But, we also have to salute Jorts as well. Without a doubt, his best performance as a Cat. Kentucky might not have won this game without him. He had something like 19 dunks, and Indiana really wasn’t able to punish UK in the post. The freshman get a lot of pub for this team, but its the two old guys who really starred tonight.
3) Terrence Jones and Fouls:Dick Vitale made this point and I think it was a really good one. Once Jones got into foul trouble, he lost his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. And on the offensive floor, that meant that he roamed the perimeter as opposed to getting into the post. This led to him scoring the first 5 points for Kentucky, and not scoring again until there were 4 minutes left in the game. With Jones being such a mismatch for nearly any team in the country, we will have to keep an eye out to see if his foul trouble leads to more games like this.
4) Is 6 players enough?:Knight, Jones, Lamb, Miller, Liggins, Harrellson. Those 6 guys are this team’s players. Vargas, Poole, and Hood are going to get minutes, but to expect anything of them might be unwise. Poole was given a serious shot in the game, but ended up missing all 3 shots. Jon Hood is clearly in the Cal doghouse, hence why Poole was given his minutes. And Vargas is a non-factor. As long as Jorts gives UK something close to what he did tonight, the Vargas production will not matter. If Harrellson falls back to his old ways, then the Cats are playing with 5 offensive players on the roster. Scary thought.
5) Toughness:UK really played poorly for the first 30 minutes of this game. Indiana looked like they were on the verge of a big upset, and then Kentucky just kicked it in gear and kicked Indiana in the rear for the final 10 minutes. The Cats held IU without a basket for over 8 minutes at the end of the game, began really attacking the rim, and UK’s go-to guys stepped up. You have to be encouraged by the way UK stepped on the gas when needed. We just have to hope against really good opponents, they find that gas sooner.
All in all, Cats are lucky to get out with a win. And to see the final margin at 19 is almost unbelievable. But, this team made it happen when it mattered most and they hold another win over Indiana. Clearly, lots of improvement still needed from the team headed into conference play. My number 1 issue is foul trouble. Cats have to stop with the silly reaches and hacks. Otherwise, give IU some credit for tough defense leading to bad shooting percentage tonight. But it is still celebration time in Lexington tonight for a win over a key rival. More on the game tomorrow and what Cal had to say about the win.