Matt won’t be able to make his traditional Postgame post tonight, so you’ll have to put up with my ramblings for the night. Let’s start with the following:
Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb.
That’s what every rival’s fan will be saying to you. That’s what the sports media will cross-reference. That’s what this game seemed to replay.
But then isn’t now. In fact, let’s talk about “then” later. Now, more about you saw tonight, and what you didn’t see: Defense.
Matt told me, “I think this was the worst UK defense I have seen ever in Rupp.” I can’t think of a game in my history of watching the Cats that featured worst defense at Rupp. Honestly, I was afraid that VMI’s slash-and-kick offense might be harsh against our ball-pressure defense. There was no ball-pressure at all. At times, VMI attacked our defense before they were set.
The ball pressure by individual players just wasn’t there. Ramon Harris, our mythical best individual defender, didn’t have much of an effect. Further down the roster, you can assign grades of “poor”, “awful”, and “Good Grief, Michael Porter!”
Speaking of Michael, he didn’t show any confidence on either side of the ball. With a year of experience in Billy’s offense system, he is supposed to be showing the confidence of being a leader. Just an absolute wretched performance.
But you can’t hang all of our offensive woes on Porter. DeAndre Liggins had more turnovers (7) than Porter (5). Even Jodie Meeks had 5 turn overs as well. These three guards had 17 of Kentucky’s 25 turnovers. And there was an excessive amount of turnovers — not necessarily all by the guards — that were really stupid “throw the ball wildly down the floor/across the court” plays that are NOT part of our offensive set. Even when Patrick Patterson was in the game, the team couldn’t get the ball inside to him.
Essentially Kentucky tried to play some sort of pick-up game against VMI for the first half, and got their asses handed to them. So credit the Wildcats for dragging themselves back into the game with 7 minutes to go in the second half. They finally started putting some pressure on the ball and started scoring with putbacks.
(By the way, if you see Perry Stevenson’s stat line, you might believe he had a great game. That’s incorrect; he had an okay game. He started making his shots in the second half, but in the first half, he blew a few layups and scored only 6 points despite having 5 offensive rebounds. Really!)
Then there was Jodie Meeks: A Man Possessed. From 12:16 until 9:04 left in the second half, Jodie scored 12 of the Wildcats’ 16 points, and forced two back-to-back turnovers. It was Crawford-esk.
If you can take any positive thing out of this game, take the knowledge that you have a warrior playing for Kentucky named Jodie Meeks. Look, I feel so strongly about this that I even bolded it like Matt would. Listen to me, you must!
Of course, Meeks couldn’t completely save the day. Our inexperience showed back up, made a few more stupid turnovers and stopped playing defense. So long, comeback.
So right now, you’re on your 3rd or 7th Maker’s, and you’re angry. GRRR ARGH TRADITION IS RUINED ESPN WILL LAUGH AT US! I’m sure you feel like the loss is unacceptable. I’m sure Billy Gillispie would agree with you. (Did you see how quickly Billy walked out of Rupp? He was practically shaking hands midway down the VMI bench with 5 seconds to go.)
Billy even used the same terms from his Gardner-Webb press conference: “We got whipped.” I actually cringed when Billy used the word. I thought, “Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb.”
But Billy was different this time. There was no “grin and bear it” smile on his face in this press conference. Billy knows that there are no more excuses; this is a team that has a year of experience playing his Lead Guard ™ led offense and his ball pressure defense. This is not the same team from last year, for better (by talent standards) or worse (by “we miss Ramel Bradley as Lead Guard” standards).
Billy knows that one game does not make or break a season. And what he does know is that there is more work to be done to keep from starting a pattern. If there are further embarrassing losses in the non-conference schedule, then we may bind closely this game with the Gardner-Webb game. But until then, they are similar, but not necessarily related.