Yesterday’s win over Louisville was huge, but it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. Let’s look at what went right and what went wrong in the Cats’ win over the Cards:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
It’s been discussed ad nauseam, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is holding this team up right now. MKG logged 24 points and 19 rebounds in 39 minutes of play. That’s right: he played nearly every single minute of the game. He continues to step up when the Cats need a spark, and yesterday was undeniably his most impressive performance of the season. Maybe it’s because his mother was watching from the stands, one week after being in the hospital. Kidd-Gilchrist’s stock is rising faster than Cal’s Orange Leaf tab, and if he keeps it up, he’ll be the lead candidate for Player of the Year.
Anthony Davis’ return to the post
After being stuck on the sidelines with two fouls for most of the first half, Anthony Davis made up for it in the second, with 18 points, which included an incredible 12-13 performance from the free throw line. Having a big man who is that consistent from the charity stripe is key, as is Davis’ presence in the post. With him on the bench, Louisville came back by attacking the post, with Siva and Smith scoring on drive after drive. Once Davis was back in the game after halftime, he put a stop to all that nonsense, blocking three of Louisville’s drives and forcing them to rely on their outside shot. When Davis is in the game, the team finds its rhythm on both sides of the court.
One of the more ridiculous stats from yesterday was Kentucky’s total domination of the boards. The Cats out-rebounded the Cards 57-31, thanks in large part to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (19), Anthony Davis (10) and Terrence Jones (11). Prior to the game, Cal challenged his team to get physical in the paint, and winning the rebound battle is one of the reasons the Cats came out on top.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
Kentucky turned the ball over 21 times, clearly falling victim to Louisville’s pesky press. Once Louisville saw how poorly Kentucky was handling the press, they amped it up. Marquis Teague and Darius Miller simply couldn’t handle it. Miller looked especially lost, committing eight turnovers. After Kentucky’s struggles against it, surely this won’t be the last time they’ll see a team use the press.
It’s telling that the Cats found a way to win despite turning in one of their worst shooting performances of the season, going 17-57 from the field for 29.8%. In fact, Kentucky’s shooting percentage was the worst of Calipari’s tenure as coach, and the Cats have not won a game shooting so poorly since 2003. Fortunately, Louisville wasn’t much better, shooting only 32.3%. It’s a testament to the Cats’ hard work on the boards and at the foul line that they pulled out a win.
Okay, a lot of this falls on the whistle-happy refs, but it’s clear how badly we struggled with key players like Anthony Davis stuck on the bench. Because of foul trouble, Cal was forced to use lineups he admitted he’d never even considered before, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Thankfully, the Cats probably won’t see a game called so closely for the rest of the season, but they need to be better at eliminating stupid fouls.
All in all, the Cats found to grind a win out despite some troubling errors. Winning ugly never sounded so nice.