Irrelevant, but totes adorbs. Tweeted by @JMays34.
It’s Thanksgiving, so gather round the table and let the bearded, crazy-eyed Uncle Corey tell you a story about a basketball game, and why we should be thankful for a non-conference win.
Kentucky, in an early, lets a vastly inferior opponent stick around far too long, and even take a 12 point lead in the first half. They battle back, but are still up only one at halftime. The other team just “kept making shots,” according to the ESPN recap, while “Calipari kept screaming, looking for somebody — anybody — willing to play defense.” Things were looking very out of sync as “[t]he Wildcats blew assignments, [and] totally forgot about others.” Knowing something would have to change if the Cats were to come back and squelch this team that should not be sticking around, “Calipari did his best to shake his team out of its funk, yanking players for even the smallest infractions in hopes of getting their attention.”
Having already lost during the season, Calipari knew his team had to learn some lessons if they were going to have any hope in the NCAA tournament. He had to mold an entirely new group of players after a mass exodus the year before at the hands of the NBA Draft. But “while the Wildcats missed 3-pointers, turned the ball over and struggled to find any kind of rhythm offensively, the [other team] went off.” Was the home win-streak at stake? Finally, the Cats seemed to click in the second half, putting together a great offensive performance behind a combo guard. After only scoring in the low-30s the first half, they get around 50 in the second half, and win by double-digits.
Does this all sound familiar? It should. It’s the story of when Kentucky played Penn on January 3rd, 2011. And yet, we seemed to see exactly the same thing last night against Morehead State. Cause for concern? Not really.
That team that played Penn, as you might recall, went on to make a trip to the Final Four after beating the number one team in the nation in possibly the greatest Sweet Sixteen game ever. They looked rough early on, but they got better. Tremendously better. The guards slowed down and got under control, the defense stopped missing assignments, and Cal managed to take talent, and turn it into ability.
The game against Penn came in January, after the Cats had already spanked Louisville, and were heading into conference play. Last night’s game was only this squad’s fourth of the season; there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. Not to mention they’re still adjusting to being without their starting point guard. Still though, they learned some lessons early on, in a win, which is far better than learning them late, in a loss.
What’s the morale of this story? Despite some struggles, this is still a great team, capable of doing big things. They’re young, and they’ll learn as they go. They’ll have to. It might not be pretty all the time. It might get ugly. But the final, burnished product will be capable of doing some impressive things when it comes tourney time. So if last night got you wound up (like it did me), relax. This is a good bunch, and we have a lot to look forward to.
This Thanksgiving, in addition to the great things we have in our lives, I hope we’re all thankful for this team. They’re a good bunch of kids and have a lot of potential. It seems strange, to be thankful for a basketball team, but this is Kentucky. So enjoy your turkey, watch some football, and Go Cats. I’ll see you in the morning.