Buenas Noches to these Centre College students in Ecuador, especially the one in the 2011 Final Four shirt. I admire your pride, but go bundle up! You look cold.
It’s Sunday night. Are you relaxed yet? Me neither. I’ve still got hate for Malcom White tingling down my spine. Let’s get it on with these ten takeaways from the weekend that was in Kentucky athletics.
1. The Cats find their groove
Kentucky was absolutely dominant on Saturday. Granted, it was against an LSU team that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, but regardless, let us relish in a performance truly worthy of the number one ranking. Saturday’s win should satiate fans who have been restless with the Cats’ so-so wins of late, and serve as a reminder to all of us as to just how good this team can be. Coach Cal put it best when he said that when the Cats play as well as they did on Saturday, “that’s as good as we can play. We beat anybody playing this way.” We’ve said time and time again that young teams find their identity on the road, and in this case, a blowout win can do wonders for a team’s spirit.
2. The new Terrence Jones
Maybe his new glamor shots gave him that little bit of confidence he needed. Maybe the humid bayou air agreed with him. Maybe his pinky is becoming less and less of a hindrance. Or, maybe it was just Terrence Jones’ time. The Terrence Jones we saw on Saturday looked like the player that knocked everyone’s socks off against UConn in Hawaii last season, the monster that put up 52 points in the Blue/White scrimmage back in October. Or maybe he looked even better; Jones played his most complete game of the season, fighting for tip-ins, nailing his free throws (an area in which he’s struggled this season), and hustling on both ends of the court. The most telling sign of Jones’ return to form? His Tarzan-like cry after a particularly nasty dunk in the second half. Don’t call it a comeback, but Terrence is playing with 100% confidence right now, and with him tuned into the game, the Cats are unstoppable.
3. Anthony Davis is Tough
Don’t mess with Anthony Davis. No, really. LSU came in with the gameplan to knock Davis around early and often, and ultimately, it backfired. From crashing into Malcom White’s knee in the first half, to being cruelly and flagrantly fouled by him in the second, to the endless chants of “uni-brow” by the student section, Davis had a rough afternoon. But, like the rough Chicagoan he is, Davis never backed down, channeling LSU’s cheap play into powerful dunks that nearly brought the goals down. The team was clearly out of sync physically and psychologically when Davis went to the locker room after his collision in the first half, proving that he is this team’s anchor. More impressive than his perseverance was his poise; not every player would remain as calm in Davis’ situation, a tall feat considering Cal had to stop Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from retaliating after White’s flagrant foul in the second half (which is its own heartwarming thing). After only 22 games, Davis has endeared himself to the Big Blue Nation so much that we held a collective breath as he writhed on the floor in pain, and we called for riots when Malcom White tackled him. If anyone deserved a restful Sunday, it was Anthony:
I need a great massage right now!!
— Anthony Davis (@AntDavis23) January 29, 2012
4. Darius Miller is the Sixth Man
One of the biggest story lines from Kentucky’s road trip this week was the way in which Darius Miller became a leader. For the past two games, Miller has come off the bench to energize the team with a new found aggressiveness, reminiscent of his performances in the SEC Tournament last season. My compadre Hunter Campbell pointed out Miller’s killer efficiency in the past two games, in which he has shot 12-17 (70.6%) from the field and 7-9 (77.8%) from behind the arc. More so, Miller seems to have embraced his role as the steadying veteran presence, stepping up when his team needs him the most, like on the road against a feisty Georgia team. While many think Miller should start due to his inspired play these past few games, maybe he is most effective as the team’s sixth man.
5. The “off-man” rotation
One of the things I’ve observed with this team is that during each game, there’s always a player that fans complain is “off.” Recently, the “off-man” has been Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, and even yesterday, some claimed that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a bad outing. I think this is more due to the sheer amount of talent and scoring options on the squad than anything; not every player on the starting five can score 20 points each night. And that’s perfectly fine. If Terrence Jones is scoring 27 points, the Cats don’t necessarily need MKG to put up 20. While stepping up when your team needs you the most is certainly admirable, maybe stepping back and letting another player who’s in his groove, as Jones was yesterday, shine, is just as good. One problem I’m fine with this team having is too much talent, especially if we find a good way to manage it. Gilchrist found other ways to contribute, with nine rebounds and smothering defense on Anthony Hickey. As fans, we need to keep our minds open past the individual box score.
6. Looking ahead
This week, the Cats enter the tougher half of their SEC schedule, beginning with Tuesday’s matchup against Tennessee at Rupp. I don’t expect the same fire from the Volunteers that we faced almost two weeks ago, but rest assured, we’ll hear more than enough from Jarnell Stokes and his new found stretching skills. After that? South Carolina in Columbia on Saturday (no Sandstorm, please), Florida in Rupp on the 7th, and the fighting Bill Dauterives in Memorial Gym on the 11th. The Vandy matchup sits on the horizon like a proverbial thundercloud of suck, a perfect storm of a road trip. For the longest time, I had accepted that this would probably be a game that Cats would drop (weird gym + young team = eek!), but after listening to Kevin Stallings whine about everything under the sun, I want Kentucky to absolutely crush them. I don’t care if that means dropping a game to Mississippi State later on, but nothing would impress me more than a Kentucky win in Memorial Gym.
7. UK Hoops is rolling
Huge kudos to the women’s basketball team, who defeated Alabama 82-68 on Sunday, improving their record to 20-2 overall, with a perfect 9-0 mark in SEC play. Matthew Mitchell led his team to its 20th win of the season for the third straight year, and their current record is tied for the best start ever for the program. Fans are taking notice, with Memorial Coliseum filling to capacity for most games this season. Chuck Norris knows:
Picture courtesy KSRCollege’s own Hayley Minogue
8. Bledsoe’s back with the Clippers
After a four-day stint in the D-League, Eric Bledsoe was called back up to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. Bledsoe continues to rehab from surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee, and faces an upward battle against the depth chart. Best of luck to the prettiest biceps from Birmingham.
9. Khalid Henderson plays dress up
Good news on the football recruiting front: 4-star Georgia linebacker Khalid Henderson visited over the weekend and liked the Cats so much, he decided to try on Danny Trevathan’s black jersey and helmet. With National Signing Day coming up on Wednesday, this can only be seen as good news from the 19th best outside linebacker in the nation (ranked by ESPN), who is also considering Ole Miss. Henderson looks to be Kentucky’s most likely signee among primary targets Monty Madaris, Cody Core, and Anthony Wales.
10. Smooth that back out
Stone Cold Willow released Chapter 5 of his ongoing saga/masterpiece this weekend, and it features an appearance by Mr. Golden Eyes himself, Randall Cobb. In the same installment, Willow also issued a challenge to the UK student body. I’ll just link you to it, right here.
Want more? We’ll be back bright and early with all the UK sports news you can shake a stick at. Stay tuned.