via Jeff Drummond
It’s been a wild ride tonight and since it’s so late and my son decided he wanted to get sick on Jorts Day (poor decision-making), we’re going to make quick work of this and continue to break down the game Wednesday. Before we jump into recapping the game though, I want to make sure we make a quick note to thank you guys for an incredibly fun Tuesday. Jorts Day was as good of a time I’ve had on this site and you guys deserve all the credit. I received over 100 emails of photos and videos (many of them I have yet to respond to, sorry about that) and the comments were great all day long. To top it all off, the Cats closed out a win. I hope you all had as much fun as we did.
Now onto some game notes…
– Without a doubt, the star of the evening was Josh Harrellson, who posted a solid 8 points, 9 rebounds and four blocks before standing tall on Vandy’s final shot for a tie at the end of the game. He had his hands full with Festus Ezeli, who played the best game of his career and went after the UK senior early, but never buckled. The crowd gave Jorts plenty of love and he played at 150 miles per hour for the entire game, even sprinting to the bench when it was his time to leave the game. For a guy who waited a long time for his shot to contribute, it was a great way to end his Rupp Arena career. After the game, Calipari again praised him for getting the most out of his physical abilities and announced that he’s been invited to the Portsmouth Invitational to showcase his skills for NBA scouts. Calipari summed it up best by saying he was “just happy for him”. Aren’t we all.
– With the way the Cats seemed to buckle late in the second half and handed Vandy a final shot at tying the game, the knee-jerk reaction probably lends itself to frustration with the way they closed the game. Truth is, though, we should all be thrilled. The Cats won a close game and that is progress. And it’s not just a little progress. It’s the type of step that we’ve all been waiting to see from this team all year. Regardless of the arena the game was played in, the simple fact that this team found a way to win a game they were trailing in with 96 seconds left is reason to celebrate. If they win in Knoxville Sunday, the Cats will be riding a three-game winning streak against the SEC East’s best teams and might even be a favorite in the SEC Tournament. That would have seemed absurd less than a week ago. Thanks to closing out Florida and Vanderbilt, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
– Without going too deep into player-by-player breakdowns, it does seem worth noting that Darius Miller again contributed in a big way. His 12 points and 0 rebounds aren’t jaw-droppingly impressive, but he again established himself as a matchup problem and a guy that can get a big bucket when UK needs to help stop a run. Saturday, he attacked Chandler Parsons off the dribble. Tuesday, he worked Brad Tinsley on the block. He’s not only found his stride, but finally seems to have the confidence of his coach and his teammates. That continues to be a potentially huge storyline heading into the postseason.
– As he’s seemed to do in every game this season, Terrence Jones managed to get his stats (15 and 9) and also frustrate everyone who watched the game. For as much as Josh Harrellson will be heralded for his performance in his last home game of his career, Terrence Jones will probably be criticized for his. Jones turned the ball over at the end of the game a couple of times, including the final possession that solicited a Chris Webber-like look on his face, and couldn’t get the ball in the basket despite finding position on the block and demanding it. He’s almost certainly bound for the NBA at this point, which might be a good thing because if this trend of regression and the drop in his confidence continues, he could be Michael Porter by Big Blue Madness next year. That might be extreme, but you get the point. He might be the most frustrating good player of my lifetime.
– One thing that Jones did well, however, was what helped UK close out the game. The Cats made 7-8 free throws in the final minute and a half, sealing the game. It might seem simple and fairly unimportant, but that’s what good teams do. The Cats took a big step forward and free throws were a huge part of it.
– To credit you all again, the environment at Rupp was sensational Tuesday evening and Shabazz Muhammad caught the contagious enthusiasm. The five-star shooting guard was said to be cheering loudly throughout the game and Tweeted out pictures afterward praising the fantastic environment at Rupp Arena. Kentucky feels like they’re in a good spot for his services and Tuesday’s passionate display of Jorts love and support of the program was one heck of a selling point.
– Finally, on an unrelated note, don’t forget about the Evan Daniels Live Blog at 4pm today. Evan will take your recruiting questions about the 2011 class that is signed, the possibilities of new additions and what names you might be seeing in 2012. Be ready to pick his brain.
That’s it for now. It was a great day Tuesday and we all have reason to have confidence going forward. Pat yourselves on the back for a great showing of support. You’re the best. We love you. Let’s skype or something.
See you in a few…