***I have yet to listen to the podcast. If someone made Orton a sung hero at some point in the broadcast, just pretend everything I’m saying is brand new to you.***
Lost a bit in the well-deserved lovefest for John Wall and Patrick Patterson after this weekend’s eye-opening (at least to Jay Bilas) win over the filthy Heels was the quiet but crucial play of Daniel Orton. Without him, you could argue whether we even walk away from Rupp victorious, although the stat sheet doesn’t necessarily demonstrate the importance of Orton’s play.
He didn’t register a point, assisted on only one basket and grabbed but four rebounds. Now, it’s in no way earth-shattering to say that someone can make an impact without ever scoring. BTI basically lives every day by that principle. Still, Orton’s performance perfectly fit that mold. His not-just-no-but-hell-no block on John Henson’s dunk attempt stopped a 10-0 Carolina run and the assist on Patterson’s dunk to follow brought the house down. This series was the moment that the team lost the ‘Oh no’ look they played with after Wall went to the locker room for the big scary needle and swung momentum for the Cats when it looked like North Carolina was taking over. Coach Cal praised Orton’s intensity in his postgame and rightfully so, as Orton has proven to be a player who brings it every time he steps on the floor. However, his performance Saturday was not only great, it was an indication of what the team will need out of the big fella if we’re to beat good teams moving forward.
Orton’s importance to the team displays itself in a variety of ways that don’t necessarily find their way to a stat book. His defense is absolutely top-notch and he’s become the first guy off the bench, partially because of his consistent intensity and partially because of DeMarcus Cousins’ tendency to get in foul trouble or let his defense slip when his offense struggles. In a way, Orton allows Coach Cal to keep Cousins on a short leash, as he can use Orton’s focus as an example when Cousins’ frustrations become evident. The ceiling for DeMarcus is unlimited, and having an equally capable replacement for him if he doesn’t bring the pain on every possession is eventually going to make him a better player. I’m guessing Boogie’s rarely been on teams that could afford for him to sit for extended periods, and we pay Cal the big bucks to see to it that the challenge makes him raise his game. When that happens, our frontcourt will officially be un-flippin-stoppable.
The big guy from Oklahoma became a little lost as bigger and newer names signed on after Coach Calipari took over. Fortunately for us he stuck with the Cats and hasn’t disappointed, although we may not fully appreciate him until later in his career. Yet, as invaluable as he’ll be to the team in the coming seasons, Orton is unbelievably important if we want to cut down some nets at the end of this year. Saturday was a great start.