Most everyone and their sister has rehashed Saturday’s game versus Indiana and found fault in a variety of places. Most people have focused their ire on Terrence Jones and a good deal of that disappointment is understandable. Everyone has a bad game, but what disappoints many (me included) about Terrence is that when he had that bad game, he wasn’t the teammate that I know he can be. Whereas Darius Miller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague have handled their times as the “6th man” on the bench while still cheering on those on the court, Jones spent most of the final seven minutes motionless sitting on the sidelines. My hope is that it is a lesson learned and he showcases a better perspective going forward. My guess is that he will and that Calipari will make that the focus this week.
Long term, the loss on Saturday will mean little. The Indiana atmosphere was as good as I have ever seen for a road game and it was without question the most hostile environment that I can remember UK facing in a long time. In the short term, I do however wonder what exactly was happening with Kentucky on the final play of the game. Calipari said that in the final time out, he implored his players to foul and stop any attempt to get the ball up the court. It is clear that Marquis Teague attempted to commit such a foul, but a lack of an early call, combined with the Zeller pick, took him out of the play. We don’t know why Darius Miller and Anthony Davis didn’t foul the penetrator, and clearly both young men made a mistake.
But I also think John Calipari made a mistake as well. For the life of me, I cannot understand the defensive alignment Calipari utilized in the final moments. With 5.6 seconds left and a foul to give, it would seem to me that you want to play with aggressiveness, go for a steal, and absent that, use your foul. However Calipari put only one player in the backcourt for the final possession. No one guarded the man bringing in the ball (who ultimately made the final shot) and Anthony Davis did not follow Cody Zeller across midcourt when he set the final pick. That doesn’t make sense to me. Had Davis been guarding Zeller, or had Miller been on Watford, they could have rotated over and fouled the ball handler after the pick had taken place. With his long arms, Davis could have surely fouled Jones, placed the ball out of bounds and allowed UK to have a set defense for the final three seconds. Instead, no one was able to stop Jones after the pick. He penetrated toward the middle and Darius Miller had to collapse on him (forgetting to foul) and Miller’s man was then left open for the final shot. Davis guarded no one for the entire play and everyone was left perplexed at the finish.
In a way it looked like a prevent defense in football. Kentucky had every player but one back to prevent an open layup, but only one (Teague) attempting to execute the foul strategy. Had Calipari aligned the UK defense differently, then multiple players could have fouled Jones in the backcourt and prevented the open look. A lot of criticism has gone the players way in the game and much of it is deserved. UK should have shot its foul shots better, made a stronger effort to foul and matched IU’s intensity in the first half. But had UK produced a defensive scheme more accurately designed to the result that it intended (a foul and no open shots), the game might still have been won.
A couple of weekend notes you may have missed:
— UK football got a commitment today from JUCO Safety Kory Brown of Mississippi. I admit to knowing next to zero about him but I have heard his name bandied about this year as a player the staff liked as a potential early contributor. He has the advantage of being a player three years out of high school but with three years of eligibility remaining. That is a combination that coaches like and he has the speed component that Tee Martin and company have coveted. Now will he be any good? When it comes to football recruits, I am firmly convinced that nobody knows….and if they do, then they aren’t blogging.
— We have to give some praise to our man Eloy Vargas for his production in the last few games. Starting with the ST Johns game in Rupp, Eloy has produced quality minutes in three consecutive games against top opponents. On Saturday, I thought the Vargas score and loose ball tie-up were CRUCIAL components to keep the game close before halftime and allowing Kentucky to come out to a manageable deficit. He is clearly player 7.5 in the rotation, but if he continues contributing as he did Saturday, his minutes will increase, potentially at the expense of Kyle Wiltjer.
— Lots of NBA news for our former Cats. Jorts signed with the Knicks, as he now sets out to try and actually make the roster. Eric Bledsoe had his October surgery finally announced to the public, meaning he will be out for the first 6-8 weeks of the season. Chuck Hayes signed with Sacramento, meaning that he will likely start at Power Forward opposite Demarcus Cousins on the all-UK front line. And Tayshaun Prince re-signed with Detroit, meaning he and Brandon Knight will make a second team in which UK has two players on the roster. Also late Sunday night, talk of a Marc Gasol trade with Memphis has Patrick Patterson’s name on the lips of trade rumors across the league. When you have a lot of guys in the league, the NBA becomes more interesting and that is certainly the case for UK fans now.
— UK’s women’s team forced 49 turnovers today in their win over Arkansas Pine Bluff. That is absurd.
— Tim Tebow got the praise, but it was Wesley Woodyard, the former Cat, who forced the Marion Barber fumble that won the Broncos the game against my Bears today. Woodyard is a force in Denver and may be the current most successful Cat in the NFL. Big props to one of my favorites to play for the Gridiron Cats.
We have a big day here on Monday as we find out where the Cats will be ranked in the polls (should be #3), get ready to take our finals and have a radio show full of crow eating and Truth bragging. It will be fun so stick around….