“I hate this place.” -Mardracus Wade
I’m flabbergasted. I had something else planned for today, but after that dismantling last night, it just didn’t seem fair to talk about anything other than how well the Cats performed from start to finish. Really, the whole team showed up to play, hustling for loose balls and rebounds even when they were leading by twenty. That’s a killer’s instinct. Terrence Jones had a very good game, and took another stride in inserting himself back onto awards lists, and into opponents’ nightmares. Marquis Teague played exactly the kind of game that helps this team the most, with seven points (on 50% shooting), four rebounds, NINE assists, and only three turnovers. For this team, with so many scoring options, that’s very close to a perfect game for Teague. Extremely well done, sir.
However, nobody’s game was better than that of Anthony Davis. Twenty-seven points. Fourteen rebounds. Seven blocks. Zero turnovers. Zero fouls. How does a post player put in thirty-six minutes and get ZERO fouls?! I’m not even mad, that’s amazing. Add in his shooting percentages (83% FG, 88% FT), and his play was absolutely miraculous. And that may be a hyperbole… but not by much. He was divine.
In fact, he was so good, that I wondered to myself on my way home: Does Anthony Davis’ game last night deserve a spot on the “All-Time Greatest UK Performances” List? Initially, it may seem like a ridiculous question, but it got me thinking about what the game had, and what it didn’t have.
What it had was efficiency. The points are high, but we’ve seen higher; it’s not even a freshman single game record, let alone anything else. The rebounds, again, were excellent. But MKG got more rebounds against Louisville earlier this season. The blocks? Special, sure, but then again he is Anthony Davis. He got seven against Kansas and South Carolina, too, and eight against St. John’s. No, what’s really unbelievable are the shooting percentages. Davis went 10-12. TEN OF TWELVE. If you’ve never played, or watched, or heard of basketball (which means nobody here), I’ll clue you in: that doesn’t usually happen. In fact, it almost never happens, and you can take the “almost” out of it. Take into account that one of those misses was a three, and the other was a goofy post move that may or may not have been partially blocked, and you have one of the best offensive performances that I can remember. That’s not even drawing attention to his stellar defensive play. OR his zero fouls and turnovers. The sharpness and precision of Davis’ game was absolutely astounding. He just didn’t make any mistakes, and when you don’t make mistakes, and are a freak athlete, things get out of hand pretty quickly.
Consider also that Davis’ best game of the year came on a night when he broke UK’s single-season block record, and you have yet another layer in what was already an impressive game. While it’s not a result of this game alone, it does add some permanent significance above and beyond what would otherwise just have been an old fashioned Arkansas beatdown. The best performances, the ones that we remember the most, always have a story behind them. We go into the game expecting something great, and what actually happens ends up being so much better. Such was last night. We knew he’d get that record. I mean, c’mon, it’s Arkansas, and he only needed two blocks. But the way he got it… Now that was special.
However, as far as single performances go, I’m reluctant to throw the #greatestgamesever tag on it just yet. Although Davis was amazing, the game itself just didn’t mean much. The classic games, those games we look up clips of on YouTube just because we have five spare minutes on a Wednesday and they give us a raging clue, are always important games, whether against rivals, or in a tournament, or whatever the case may be. There’s more on the line than just the game. Think about it: Jack Givens, for example, put the Cats on his back against Duke in the National Title game. That’s a double-whammy: beat Duke and win a championship. Boom, classic. Jodie Meeks broke the single game scoring record AT Tennessee. Another classic. This game just didn’t have that same kind of relevance, and Arkansas really isn’t that good. I really think that’s the only reason this won’t be remembered as an all-time type of performance. I see it getting the same kind of attention that Tayshaun’s three point barrage against North Carolina does. Amazing highlight reel, memorable performance, but the lack of significant meaning behind the game itself keeps it from being a classic. Just do the same thing against Syracuse in the championship game, Anthony, and that problem’s solved.
Bottom line, it was an amazing thirty-six minutes. I imagine we’ll see David Stern introduce a few clips from this game in June, when Anthony Davis goes number one overall. After last night, there’s really no doubt that he’s one of the best players, not just this year, and not just at UK, but of all the guys to play the game anywhere, at any level, in the last decade. Point. Blank. Period.