After flying high after the rout over Kansas, the Cats needed to be pulled back to Earth a bit, and tonight, the Boston Terriers tried their best to play the spoiler. Of course, UK still won by 24, but that seems to be a pattern this season: even with an incomplete performance, the Cats are big and strong enough to cruise. Let’s go through the highlights.
Hangovers are real, yo
The first half wasn’t pretty. As predicted, UK jogged out of the gate after the huge win over Kansas, and to their credit, the Terriers were truly pesky, nipping at the Cats’ heels like the friskiest of Jack Russells. “We did not fight in the first half,” Calipari said. “I expected a letdown, I was just hoping it wouldn’t be too bad.” After the game, Boston head coach Joe Jones acknowledged that his squad may have caught Kentucky at a good moment after the thrilling win over Kansas.”I thought it was always hard to get up for a game like this when they had such a big game and they played so well in that game,” Jones said. “I was using everything at my disposal.”
Jones is a character and obviously loved the spotlight of UK’s stage. After he was done with his press conference, he “accidentally” tried to walk into the wrong locker room, joking “Is this Kentucky? I’m going to change teams.”
Really, can we keep him?
Ryan Lemond tackled the UK mascot at halftime
In case you haven’t been to a game yet this season, Ryan Lemond now handles halftime festivities, emceeing halfcourt shots. Tonight, the UK mascot made the halfcourt shot, and Ryan tackled him in celebration.
Yes, those are zippers on his back pockets. Zipper pockets on the jeans! Mark this down as a show topic for Monday.
Boston got chippy
The second half escalated quickly. Boston stayed right with Kentucky for the first ten minutes thanks to several fouls from the refs, which sucked up any life in Rupp Arena. The officials called a double technical on Aaron Harrison and Cedric Hankerson, and another technical on Nathan Dieudonne. Boston clearly wasn’t scared of the Cats, jawing and scrapping until the end. In fact, UK only won the rebounding battle by five; however, the Cats opened it up with about seven minutes left, cracking BU’s 2-3 zone by going to their strengths: length and lobs.
Andrew Harrison got mad
Andrew Harrison only had eight points tonight, but I’d argue he shifted the momentum in the second half. After the refs tried to choke any and all rhythm from the court, Andrew got mad, driving the ball, drawing a foul, and sinking two free throws. He followed that up with a beautiful lob to Willie Cauley-Stein. Andrew also had five assists, second to only to Devin Booker, the star of the game. UK shared the ball better than they have all season tonight with 24 assists, the most in a game since dishing out 28 vs. LIU-Brooklyn in 2012.
Speaking of Harrisons, Aaron had a lot of these, too:
Devin Booker took over
Remember when Devin Booker finally found his shot vs. Kansas? That hot streak continued tonight, and in the second half, it seemed like Devin couldn’t miss. He finished with 15 points off 5-8 shooting, 4-6 from behind the arc. Even better were Booker’s seven assists, a team high. Booker admitted that getting his shot to go down vs. Kansas was a huge confidence boost. “Finally got to see a shot go in. so, that was good,” Booker told reporters afterwards. “Shooters keep shooting. I feel like I kind of shot myself out of it and from here on out I’ll be good.”
Still looking for a full performance
It seems crazy, but we still haven’t seen a complete performance from the Cats. Tonight, the offense finally flowed in the second half thanks to Aaron and Devin, but the defense struggled. On defense, Calipari said that against Kansas, UK looked like a “January team,” whereas tonight, they looked like a “November team.” He also issued his standard disclaimers, warning that this team isn’t as great as everyone is making them out to be. “We all expect this team to be world-beaters every time out, and let me say this, folks: they’re not going to be,” Cal said.
I get Cal’s point, but the fact that it’s only November and the team looks this good and still has room to improve has me heading to bed happy. These quotes from Boston head coach Joe Jones help. “They have so many guys that someone is gonna get hot. They are so good,” Jones said. “Even though it was a close game, they were playing as a team. You can win big that way.”
“They’ve got a chance to get better and better. That’s the scary thing.”
Really, let’s keep him.
Meanwhile, in Athens, Georgia…
LOL. No, you don’t.
This dunk by Dominique Hawkins is all you need to see
Dominique got the start after Alex Poythress sat out because of illness, and made the most of it with this dunk, the first of his career at Kentucky. “Now people know I can dunk. I feel like I’m the best dunker on the team,” Dominique said.
There’s no topping that. Enjoy the rare Saturday off.