While most people spent the day watching eight hours of football, I took a break from the festivities mid-afternoon to do my semi-regular trip to the movies. Because I still can’t get up the energy to watch a silent movie (“The Artist” is going to win Best Picture, so I have to see it…but I can’t yet fathom actually doing it), I instead went for the British Spy thriller, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the full name of the movie, telling the ticket seller that I wanted one for “Tinker Tape Soldier Game”, which I believe doesn’t come out until October. Once I did find the right theater however, the movie was a worthy way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It is a convoluted Cold War spy tale about a mole in the British Intelligence Service and the attempt to out him by a disgraced ex-officer. The movie is set in the 1970s, which means bad suits, hair and lots of cigarette smoke, which combined with the ubiquitous rain of all things shot in Britain, makes for a rather dreary cinematography. But the story is fascinating and rewards movie viewers with the patience to follow its rather complicated storyline. At the end, I felt as if I had sat through a 2 hour graduate school lecture, leaving informed but also exhausted. It is better than the vast majority of movies I have seen this year and contains something you rarely see in modern cinema, ugly people. It is worth your time.
Poor Kyle Williams…to today’s Top Ten:
1. Cats Gut One Out: Of all the teams in the SEC, I think Alabama is most suited from a personnel standpoint to give Kentucky problems. They are long, athletic and have the ability to play top ten level defense when focused. All season long they have played well, but when the three-ball hasn’t fallen, then struggles have ensued. Saturday, the Tide hit shots and thus Kentucky got a very difficult game. Alabama muscled up Anthony Davis (the right way to play him), let JaMychal Green (in his 10th year at Alabama) have another stellar game against the Cats and benefitted from key shots in crucial situations to make the game a dogfight. Virtually the entire contest took place with UK up 3-8 points and you have to give Alabama credit for never allowing Kentucky the distance to pull away. What most impressed me about Kentucky’s performance is simply this…they won. On a day when they needed big plays at big times, UK made them…something that last year did not happen at this point in the season. Alabama can make the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend and Kentucky showed last night that it can grit out a victory against such a team even when they are playing at their best.
2. Two-Sided Terrence: Much has been written about the dichotomy between the two halves of Terrence Jones’s game and it was actually symbolic of his season as a whole. But what I continue to be pleased with in Terrence’s performance is his desire to help the team in ways other than scoring. While his hustle still needs to reach 100% all game (during one play late in the second half, Anthony Davis dove on the floor for a ball next to Jones as he stood up watching. Exasperated, Calipari yelled at Jones, “well if you aren’t going to dive, at least help him up!”), Jones is getting his rebounding and defensive edge back. The latter was crucial in the second half, after Jones bounced back from a disastrous first half that saw Jones’s man either score or set up nearly every Alabama basket. In the second half, Jones was quick with rotations, got a number of deflections and a couple of crucial steals. The Jones line we saw Saturday, 15 points, along with rebounds, blocks, steals and defense, is a line that can win UK a national championship.
3. Clutch Darius: With 1:06 left in the game on Saturday, Alabama cut the lead to two on free throws. I said on the LIVE BLOG at that time that whoever took the next shot for UK would tell a lot about the makeup of the team. MKG was on the bench, having fouled out and I thought it would be interesting to see who wanted, and took, the ball in their hands. We got an answer quickly as Darius Miller rose up to take a shot, ten seconds into the shot clock and was fouled. The fact that he made the free throws and two others later, was not surprising. But what was more impressive was the initiative to be the person with the game on his shoulders. Last year at Ole Miss, Miller deflected the opportunity to take a crucial late shot, and gathered much criticism in the process. This year, not only did he take it, he did it early and with confidence. I still believe that an NCAA Tournament game will come down to Kentucky needing a basket and Darius Miller with the ball in his hands. Saturday showed he can handle that moment.
4. Rupp Crowd Gets Abused: John Clay wrote in the Lexington Herald Leader this morning that the Rupp crowd is too quiet and needs to step up their game. Generally, I agree and it is a topic we have rehashed numerous times. But I have to say that I don’t think the issue is as clear-cut as some want it to be. While there are definitely a few fans in basketball who ask others to keep the noise down, that group is diminishing every year. One scan of the Rupp crowd on Saturday showed me many more young faces around than we used to see even ten years ago. Most of the problem with Rupp’s noise is structural. The students have limited floor seats and aren’t yet organized in noise making (and on Saturday were discouraged from doing the Stone Cold Willow dance…don’t let UK tell you know kids…it needs to happen). And the big money donors get the best seats..and often aren’t quite as loud as others up top. As long as that is the structure, and such a structure is understandable from a financial perspective, Rupp will be loud only in doses. It is what it is.
5. Offensive Execution Better: One fact not to be lost from Saturday is just how well UK executed its offense all game. From the opening tip, Kentucky was able to get VERY good shots against a VERY good defensive team, most any time it wanted to. If UK had been better making free throws and wide open lay-ups in the first half, the game could have had a 15 point spread at the half. Throughout the contest, UK had good shots and only on a couple of possessions did the offense look stagnant. Alabama may be the best non-UK defensive team in the SEC, and Kentucky played its best offensive game of the conference season against them. That is a good sign.
6. Derek Willis: I went to Bullitt East High School on Friday afternoon to watch the commitment of Derek Willis to Kentucky. The scene there was great, with lots of local fans and Bullitt East students around to cheer Willis on. Immediately much of the talk from UK fans centered on whether he was good enough to play at UK and UL fans began crowing that they didn’t want him anyway (I will have an answer for these UL yokels tomorrow on the radio). From our fans however, criticism of Willis should temper and ultimately stop. Calipari likes Willis for reasons that the average fan may not totally realize…he is a big man who can PASS and set up others from any position. That is a luxury rarely found in the college game and one UK would LOVE to have this season. Willis will be a good player at UK and the lowest ranked 2013 commitment, even though he is still ranked in the Top 40 nationwide. That should be plenty for UK fans who ought to rally around a good Kentucky kid playing for the Blue and White. Here, he and his father (a life-long UL fan) talk about his decision to pick Kentucky:
7. Women’s Get a Late Win: The UK Hoops team continued its magic run with a 57-52 win over Florida in a sold out Memorial Coliseum. The ladies were able to win even though their leading scorer Adia Mathies only had two points, and the rest of the team had an off night from the field. With each win, the possibility of a regular season SEC title grows more plausible, an accomplishment previously figured unthinkable in Lexington. Two Final Fours…it can happen here this year. (For a journal of the game from a KSR College writer covering her first UK game, click here.
8. Football Recruiting: Over the next ten days, you will hear much more about football recruiting here on KSR, as we get you ready for National Signing Day. The big story today was the commitment of Paducah Tilghman WR/ATH JD Harmon to the Class of 2012. With Harmon agreeing to pay his own way the first year, UK gets a good pickup and keeps a scholarship opportunity, a great result for the Cats. The storyline going forward in the next week that may have the most important effect on the class is what happens with former Tennessee commitment Khalid Henderson. The four star LB visited Ole Miss this weekend and loved it, and it is assumed the Rebels are the leaders. But he visits UK next weekend and Joker and Co. have a chance to steal a stud out of nowhere late. If they get him, it would be a crown jewel to the class at the very end and one to get very excited about going into next season.
9. Eating Contest: I know nothing else about this except the result but apparently today there was an eating contest in Northern Kentucky in which Jared Lorenzen and Patrick Towles took on two others as a team. And apparently the Round Mound of Touchdown and UK’s future star lost. If anyone knows anything else about it, please let me know.
10. KSR College Debuts: Later tonight, we will officially debut the KSRCollege.com website. The 24 student writers have been going at it for a week and have really done a tremendous job. The goal of the site is to cover UK sports with a new set of voices and to pay particular focus on the under-covered sports such as women’s basketball, baseball and football recruiting. The site has done a host of cool thing and beginning on Monday night, you will hear more about it on this site. We hope you will add visits to KSR College to your internet browsing to support the younger writers, who are very excited and really doing a tremendous job. A couple of today’s best pieces were:
Finally, a shout out to a friend of KSR, Amanda Mertz, (pictured below) who today was named Miss USA Kentucky. Amanda has been around KSR for years, and has helped us out on various projects since the site’s inception. She will be representing Kentucky at the Miss USA pageant this summer (that is the Trump one) and KSR will be wishing her luck. She will likely join you in listening to KSR Radio in the morning starting at 10 am, so see you then….