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9 Takeaways from Kentucky’s win over Belmont

Darrell Bird

Photo © Mark Zerof

Kentucky got off to another slow start this afternoon, but rallied behind Julius Randle and Aaron Harrison to put away sharp-shooting Belmont, 83-70. Here are nine takeaways from the Cats’ come-from-behind win:

Photo by Darrell Bird

Photo by Darrell Bird

1. Randle the reliable

After a few bad games, Julius Randle was back to his ole reliable self this afternoon, scoring a career-high 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double this season. When Kentucky’s offense stalled in the first half, they started going to Randle, who overpowered Belmont in the post. As it was earlier in the season, going to Randle in the middle means points. Even though he was often double and tripled-teamed, Randle fought through and finished, showing more aggression than he has in weeks. Granted, Belmont’s bigs are hardly James McAdoo, but it was good to see Randle assert himself as the dominant player we know he can be.

After the game, Belmont head coach Rick Byrd called Randle the difference in the game, telling reporters “We couldn’t stop him from making it. He’s so strong that our guys fouled him and he didn’t even notice.”

2. Aaron takes control

We’ve heard that Aaron Harrison is taking ownership of this team in practice, and that leadership carried over into today’s game. Aaron finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists, and even more, was confident and assertive, driving the lane with force. Cal said that at times, Aaron is UK’s best player, joking that because he’s 12 minutes older than Andrew, he’s more mature. He looked it today.

3. Body language is a work-in-progress

One of the biggest complaints about this young team has been body language. They’ve been focusing on it during practice, with Cal teaching the guys how to huddle at the free throw line and greet each other after substitutions. Those seem like fundamental things, but they go a long way in improving team chemistry. One of the worst offenders has been Andrew Harrison, whose trademark move after a bad call or play is to put his hands over his head and frown. Andrew did a lot of that today, but his teammates didn’t let him get away with it for long. Jeff Drummond pointed out that in the second half when Andrew picked up his fourth foul, he immediately put his hands on his head, to which Randle shouted “Dude, body language!” at him. Randle did the exact same pose as Andrew later on after he got his fourth foul, but I like how the players are holding each other accountable. Andrew rallied and ended the game well, and after a particularly impressive drive, Randle leapt off the bench to greet him on the court. More of that, please.

Photo @kysportsradio

Photo @kysportsradio

4. There was a T-shirt cannon

Maybe someone in the UK Athletics is listening. After we clammored for improvement to the gameday atmosphere, a t-shirt cannon made an appearance in Rupp, helping a Big Blue Santa deliver some gifts during halftime. Sure, the gun looked a little homemade and slightly dangerous, but we’re not complaining. It worked, too; the crowd was excellent in Rupp this afternoon.

Photo by Darrell Bird

Photo by Darrell Bird

5. Jarrod and Dominique came off the bench to teach some valuable lessons

Cal has preached all year that his bench is his best teaching tool. He finally put the bench to use today, putting in Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins in the latter part of the first half, which gave the Cats some much-needed spark on both sides of the court. Hawkins is the best on-the-ball defender the Cats have, scrapping and fighting for every possession, which Calipari recognized after the game, telling reporters Dominique “gets everything he can out of his body. It’s incredible.”

While everyone can learn from Dominique’s hustle, the most important lesson may be the one Andrew Harrison learns from Jarrod Polson. Polson came in when Andrew got two fouls in the first half and immediately steadied the team. In fact, Polson did so well that Cal made Andrew sit next to him on the bench and talked him through everything Polson did. “[Andrew] can do everything Jarrod did, but at a higher level,” Cal said. Andrew had plenty of time to watch and learn; Jarrod played a season-high 21 minutes today.

“We had to go to Jarrod and Dominique to get the energy we needed to in the game. You know and I know it,” Cal said, adding that he wants to use the bench to energize, not punish. “What I want is a high-energy game. And you stick those guys in and they raise it even more and they sustain it until we can get guys back in.”

6. For this team to succeed, Andrew must improve

After today, I don’t think anyone would argue with Cal when he says that this team’s progress starts with Andrew:

“We have to get better. Andrew has to get better. He’s gotta have a better understanding of what we want and then do it,” Cal said. “At the end of the day, I want Andrew to be the best point guard in the country, I don’t want there to be any question. Right now, most games, he’s not the best point guard on the court. We just have to get it changed. He has the talent, he has the ability, he has the mindset, I’ve just gotta keep working with him.”

To Andrew’s credit, he put his head up and finished the game well.

7. With their point guard back, Belmont is dangerous

In a bit of a surprise, Belmont’s point guard Reece Chamberlain returned to the starting lineup this afternoon after missing five straight games with a foot injury. With him, the Bruins looked much more like the team that beat UNC than the one that lost to Denver earlier in the week. True to form, Belmont shot early and often from the 3-point line, hitting 11-30 threes, although it sure felt like a whole lot more at times. Rick Byrd’s team didn’t have an answer for Julius Randle in the middle, but they will be a dangerous first round opponent if they make it into the tournament.


8. Alex roared some more

Alex followed up a promising performance in Chapel Hill and a good week in practice with another good game. Calipari was pleased with his effort afterwards:

“He’s playing with energy. He’s playing and sustaining it, which he’s never done. He’s talking more. He’s playing smarter. He’s making easy plays. He could be a difference maker and needs to be a difference maker and should be a difference maker for this team.”

Willie also played well, showing off a budding touch around the basket, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds.

9. Like it or not, it’s about to get real

While Kentucky was able to get away with a slow start this afternoon, Louisville is a much more formidable foe whose guards will capitalize on every mistake the Cats make. Right Cal?

“The challenge, let me tell you the one thing with [Louisville], they play extremely hard, way harder than we’ve played, like way harder. And again, they’re a Final Four, national championship team this year–those guys are back. They know how hard to play; they’re not rattled late, all the things that this team is still learning about.”

One week.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

50 Comments for 9 Takeaways from Kentucky’s win over Belmont

  1. uumm
    4:02 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    #8 quote about Alex was pertaining to his play in practice not games.

  2. Mean Rany
    4:04 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    One Takeaway from the game: Andrew Harrison’s attitude really sucks

    • Daniel
      7:07 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      well he wants to play and he was in foul trouble the entire game…. Cal believes in him ALOT and said he sat 1st on the bench by Cal so he could point out good things Polson was doing.. to that extent How is that a Bad Attitude… A bad attitude is telling your Coach No or ignoring him… Andrew is very coachable from reports.. you know what else have we heard bad about Andrew? nothing at all

  3. stevem
    4:11 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Sad to say but I have little expectation that UK will beat the Dirty birds. Cards play with far greater intensity and their press will further compound Andrew’s struggling offense even more. This team may surprise us, but at this point they aren’t tough enough to beat Louisville. Hope I’m full of @#$t!

  4. biggbluemartini
    4:17 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Cal already making excuses in case we lose.

    • Stop!
      4:38 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Stop saying “we.” It makes you sound even dumber than you are.

  5. Ron Burgundy
    4:18 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    This just in, stevem is full of @#$t!

  6. Bankerbh
    4:27 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    The Cats are in worse shape than we thought if Cal is having to teach them the need to huddle over foul shots or the interaction between players entering and exiting the game. No sense of team by this conglomerate of talent. They just don’t get it….and likely don’t care they don’t get it. Instead of yelling body language…yell quit your f&[email protected] pouting and get back in the game.

  7. Orange Julius
    4:28 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    I dont know that we can beat UL or not, but hoping for the best. Have a puncher’s chance I guess. I love sarcastic humor.

  8. Blitzen
    4:30 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Heard Robic’s post game presser. He said the team is going home today until Christmas Day. So 2 days of practice for UofL. Meanwhile, Pitino took the Cards to FL to hole up, practice and get away from the pre game hype. I think Pitino is going to have the Cards jacked up, and we seem to always play the first 10 minutes of the game in a sleepwalk. I see the Cards being 10-12 points better at this point. Wish Cal had kept em here for two a days right thru Christmas. Bah. Humbug.

    • Syrin
      6:07 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      I could care less about U of L. March is what matters.

    • Rudolph
      6:36 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      That is just stupid. I don’t care about any game up until now EXCEPT UofL. How can you not care about your biggest rival?

    • Syrin
      8:07 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Because, dumb phuk, I’d take a loss to Lousiville for a national championship. You apparently would rather have the opposite.

    • UKHowell84
      11:31 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      The championship isn’t guaranteed by losing to UL, not an Elite Eight, no Final Four, nothing is guaranteed regardless of this games outcome. It is a huge game and a big deal to win, and being that nothing is guaranteed, it makes it all the more important. Last year was TERRIBLE. I don’t want to lose to those foul happy hand slappers and then not even make the tournament, then to add insult to injury, they win the National Championship. So yeah, the UL game is a very big deal.

  9. Prancer
    4:39 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Get back to the North Pole, fool.

  10. Bankerbh
    4:49 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Does anyone else get the feeling that Cal tries to distance himself from his team’s results? He also doesn’t seem to do well at making adjustments to get different results. Not just the in game stuff, but bigger picture. Free throw shooting has been a weakness of many ky teams…too many of the teams. Great athletes who are long…but no press. Great individual talent…but don’t play as a unit. Big games, national coverage….come out very flat until the hole is dug too deep in the first half for the phenomenal second half play to come up short.

    • Syrin
      6:07 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Poor free throw shooting is a Calipari trade mark. Ity was true at UMass, it cost him the national championship at Memphis, and is still true today.

    • Daniel
      7:14 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink


  11. Bunny
    5:01 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Was really impressed with Belmont! That’s a good basketball team and I can see how they won at NC.

    Was also impressed with the overall play of Randle, Stein, and Aaron Harrison today and the coaching of Cal. I liked having 9 guys in double fig minutes in a tight game. We’ll need all that and more to stay with the Dirty Birds. Would liked to have seen more of Willis and didn’t understand why Cal pulled him.

    I predict that Andrew Harrison will soon have a breakout game. Hopefully the next one against Louisville…

  12. jq
    5:04 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    They are a bunch of OVERRATED, ARROGANT, WANNABEES!

    • Syrin
      6:05 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Hey f’rad, they aren’t arrogant in the least. The effort is there.

    • And You?
      7:39 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      And you are a “Neverwillbe.” So, STFU.

  13. Stu Katz
    5:11 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    If UK plays like this against UL, they will get blown out. I hope this week of preparation goes better than the one that just finished. This team was not ready to play today.

    • Pessimistic
      5:21 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Unfortunately there won’t be a week of preparation. The players are going home for several days for Christmas. So when they get back fat and lethargic that’ll leave only a couple days to prepare.
      Meanwhile U of L is practicing through the week.

    • who dey
      6:24 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Big deal about the team taking some time over Christmas. Good for them. There’s more to life than basketball. If Cal didn’t let them go see their families, he’d catch hell for that, too.

    • Roofus Howls
      7:30 am December 22, 2013 Permalink

      This prior “week of preparation” was spent taking final exams. That’s mentally exhausting. And only a horse’s butt of a coach is going to keep his team in an entire week over Christmas and not let the team go see their families for the Holiday. For that matter, only a selfish fan who doesn’t care about these kids or their quality of life is going to harp on the fact that they get 3 days to go visit their families.

      What would you do if your boss told you that you were being sequestered at work for Christmas and couldn’t see your family (or drink or watch TV or whatever brings you pleasure) because he wanted the company’s bottom line to improve. You’d probably call him greedy, heartless, and threaten to quit.

      There’s also a chance that some of these guys’ families are going to chew their rumps to the point that they’re going to return to Lexington with new attitudes.

  14. Royal Blue
    5:15 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    I guess a Loserville fan got bored and wanted to use his 30 minutes mommy lets him us the computer to trool a UK site.

  15. Royal Blue
    5:16 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink


  16. Royal Blue
    5:17 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Not u Stu Katz. lol

  17. Pessimistic
    5:19 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    I hate to say it but I don’t see us beating the Dirty Birds. I was hoping to see major improvement today to convince me we could play with them. I didn’t see any. Except Polson, and since he played good Cal won’t play him anymore. Just like last season and all of this season until today. U of L is very experienced and executes well. And we still look like we did from day one.
    Russ Smith will abuse Andrew and Polson (if he manages to get in). Maybe Hawkins can slow him down some. He’s small so Hawkins might have a chance. He could be the key to the game for us.
    Willie, Aaron and Randle will all show up but unless we can find somebody to hit outside shots we won’t beat good teams. They’ll just zone us.
    Pitino will press us and our poor decision making guards will turn it over like crazy.
    The analyst in me says we lose by 12. But the dreamer says we win by 5.

  18. niaps
    5:33 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    At this point in time I cannot see these Cats beating a ranked team this year. The learning curve for this bunch is way too long. The offense relies way too much on Randle who when against a zone and gets double teamed like at Baylor he becomes a non factor. Pitino knows this and we know he is a master at defenses. Bad feeling for this group and the next game could be a blowout on their own court.

  19. niaps
    5:47 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    I play with my own poo.

  20. Detours
    5:59 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    I hope UK fans don’t get their pride hurt too badly next Saturday. It will be a sad day for BBN and deservedly so. Cal is such a great coach and his team is so good that they can afford to take a few days off while Pitino enjoys the sun and practices his team in Florida in the hopes that they can take on these mighty HS players. Too funny.

    • Funny?
      7:42 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Pitino is a wonderful Role Model. We should all emulate him. And gosh, what a tough schedule U of L has had this far. We should fear them greatly.

    • You Fat Pig
      7:44 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      You are so gross. Get lost!

  21. minfinnigan
    6:00 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Would love to see where this team would be if Pitino, Izzo,Self, or Coach K was coaching them. I think Calipari is the best recruiting coach out there, but when it comes to x’s and o’s, something is lacking. This team at this point in time is pretty hard to watch. Still trying to teach fundamentals to McDonalds All Americans???Should have kept them in and at least practice free throws. Russ Smith will have Harrison for lunch!!!

    • Syrin
      6:03 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      I don’t think it’s even that. He plays people who are clearly WORSE than the guys coming off the bench. It’s like he thinks UK is an NBA developmental program like a AA baseball team where no one gives a damn about the record. Andrew has done NOTHING to earn the paying time he gets. It’s all based on “potential” and hype. Name the last game our elite point guard led this team to more than 6 fast break points in a game.

    • Daniel
      7:17 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      you guys are negative.. and are you kidding me.

  22. Syrin
    6:01 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    For like the 10th game in a row, this team of elite athletes had virtually no fast break points while a lesser talented and smaller team had a bunch. This team is going no where with Andrew at the point. Down by 11 when he goes to the bench. Polson comes in and we take the lead. Same pattern in the 2nd half. Cal has to realize his MAIN JOB is to win, not be an NBA developmental program for kids. This isn’t a double A baseball team where no one gives a damn about the team’s record. If Andrew isn’t getting the job done, put in someone else.

  23. UK #1
    6:04 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Not a rocket scientist, but didn’t our Cats beat Belmont today 93-80?

    • Syrin
      6:09 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Yeah, but it was the way they did it. Missed WIDE open threes, virtually no fast break points, and down by 11 until our “elite” point guard thankfully got in foul trouble so Polson could come in and get this team the lead.

    • Detours
      6:12 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Surely you aren’t judging this team based on a win over an unranked team. If so, you’re in for a big surprise next Saturday.

    • Detours
      6:14 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Louisville will hopefully make you realize what a team you DON’T have. Louisville will make you wish you had the LadyCats on the floor playing rather than your over hyped HS ‘stars.

    • Troy
      6:18 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Detours, enjoy it while you can, because March is what counts, and this team will be better than Louisville by then. UK has had way more success in the tourney since Cal took over than you all have. It took a record low level of college talent last year for you to get a championship. Not going to happen this year. Don’t worry, your mom will still let you bang her 300 pound asss every night.

    • Detours
      6:24 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      We shall see….we shall truly see. I love the BBN and all of their overweight fans.

    • Troy
      8:05 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      I had no idea your mom was a UK fan.

    • Rick
      9:02 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

      Yes, but Belmont has missed the NCAA Tourney twice in the last 8 years.

  24. who dey
    6:29 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    It’s really sad how many Cardinal fans are on this UK site. Or, if they’re UK fans posing as Card fans just trying to be funny or get a rise out of people, that’s even more sad. Makes these comment sections, which used to be pretty good, impossible to follow.

  25. chardun
    7:56 pm December 21, 2013 Permalink

    Why does body language matter so much, just win, they can cry over fouls and turnovers all they want.

  26. biggbluemartini
    10:25 am December 22, 2013 Permalink

    Too many cardinal fans on here. KSR needs to do what did with the comment section and make you use your facebook account