It’s time. Coppin State is out of the way and it’s time to finally dig deep inside and unleash every ounce of bitter Cardinal hate you’ve got in that big blue soul of yours. Time is the only thing now standing between Kentucky and Louisville as the Cats disposed of their final challenger, Coppin State, at Rupp Arena Tuesday night. Though the whole arena pretended to care about the Fang Mitchell’s Eagle squad, it’s clear that everyone was just biding their time until Friday. That, of course, provides a non-existent segue into our evening honoree, This Kid. This Kid lived the dream of every child from Paducah to Pikeville when he was featured at least two times on a broadcast featuring Dave Neal. Our good friend and sometimes KSR cohort Bomani Jones often makes reference to “insufficient daddying” on his radio show. Around these parts, this is as sufficient of daddying (or mommying) as you can get. So, congrats to This Kid. He is the star of this show too.
Now, onto some Coppin State notes…
– Essentially from the start, this game was a laugher. But, while leaving the Eagles safely in the rearview mirror from the start might not be great for the chances of earning an instant replay on your local Fox Sports network, it is a great testament to the focus of this team. With a huge game looming on Friday and after coming back from a couple days off (by the way, get used to hearing about how U of L didn’t break) for the holidays, the possibility of Kentucky coming out flat early on would not have been shocking. But, as Cal’s teams have seemed to do in almost every game, the Cats came out ready and jumped all over the Eagles. For any team, that’s a good sign to take away for the rest of the year. For a young team, is even more impressive.
– If there was a major storyline to come out of the game, it was the “Calzone” which made its first appearance of the night in the first half. The zone didn’t look too effective early on, as Coppin State scored seven quick points, but the Cats settled into it nicely. After the game, Coach Cal said he didn’t like that it slowed downt the game and that “fans might enjoy 22 passes, but I don’t”, before adding that the Cats could use it against Louisville, just as Drexel did.
– After getting 34 minutes from the quartet of Eloy Vargas, Jon Hood, Stacey Poole and Jarrod Polson, Coach Cal said flat-out that they need to perform. He went on to saythat he’s gone with a six-man rotation and will do it again. Not really what most expected after a game that seemed to feature more white guy jams than Now That’s What I Call Music 342. Calipari called Hood’s seven-point outburts “ok” and said that though he hit some shots, he got beat on defense too much and that has to be corrected.
– On a related note, Jarrod Polson played three minutes and…SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!
– A big positive to take away from the game was the return of Terrence Jones’ game after a battle with a flu bug and an inconsistent shot. Jones converted nine of his twelve shots en route to 18 points in 28 minutes and again looked forceful in attacking the rim. After a couple of very un-Terrence Jonesish performances, his return again restores confidence that he will be able to put points on the board against a subpar U of L frontcourt.
– In what has turned into a game-by-game transformation, Brandon Knight again looked phenomenal in leading the UK attack. As Calipari noted earlier in the week, he has finally settled into the roles of point guard and leader for the Cats and it was evident again tonight as he reached a career-high in assists with eight. Knight also committed only two turnovers, giving him two or less in four out of the last five games after achieving that only once in the season’s first seven games (he averaged 4.7 in that stretch). If he continues this upward trajectory against Louisville and the SEC, he could be quietly playing himself into All-American consideration.
– After picking up another half dozen floor burns or so, DeAndre Liggins got Cal a little irritated for not shooting the ball. Liggins finished with an almost near triple-double (read that again before you trash me and tell me the I suck at this) with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. The pressure will be on him to play the role of defensive pest against the Cards on Friday, but there’s no question that this type of offensive contribution will also be needed. Great game from #34.
– On the subject of Darius Miller, Calipari said called this his “best game in a long time”. Cal cited his aggressiveness as a positive sign and said that “if he’ll go rebound and battle like that, you’ll see his game blossom”. It couldnt’ have come at a better time.
– It wasn’t the sexy record-breaking game that he displayed last week against Winthrop, but Doron Lamb finished with a solid 17 points off the bench. But, it wasn’t so much the points that Coach Cal was impressed with. In the postgame, Calipari said that Lamb found a way to stay on the court while he was missing shots in the first half because he was playing good defense and rebounding the ball. That’s a sign of the maturity that this team needs from its freshmen in order to become a force in the spring.
– Finally, on a non-Coppin State note, your friend and mine, Kenny Walker will be singing karaoke at Big Blue Country Wednesday night to help raise money to fight illiteracy in Kentucky. If you stop by and mention BTI’s name, you’ll get your head rubbed by a beautiful woman.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned throughout the day as we get you ready for Friday. It’s going to be a big finish to 2010 and you don’t want to miss it. See you in a few…