1. We survived Willie Cauley-Stein foul trouble
When you have 2 platoons filled with McDonald’s All-Americans, you almost feel as if your team is immune to foul trouble. And in most instances, I would say yes. But there is one player who is superior defensively to the rest…
When Willie Cauley-Stein reached in for a silly foul early in the second half, it looked as if Kentucky might have to play a big chunk of the 2nd half without its best all-around defender. At that moment, the game was still very much in limbo. Louisville was keeping Kentucky in check offensively, and it felt like the kind of game where you didn’t want to be on the wrong end of a “big run” because points were just so hard to come by on either end. Willie is so diverse defensively, and Louisville had plenty of big bodies down low to capitalize on his absence.
When Willie came back into the game, he quickly picked up his 4th foul. Once again, in a tight contest it was looking as if Kentucky might have to manage without its best defender. But…
2. We survived Willie Cauley-Stein’s foul trouble in large part due to Marcus Lee
One of the big reasons Kentucky was able to handle Willie’s foul trouble was because of some good situational defending by Marcus Lee. Lee did nothing flashy in the game, and might have been an afterthought to most when thinking about all of yesterdays’ performances. Lee came in and played solid minutes defensively against Louisville’s All-American Montrezl Harrell. Even though Lee was vastly outweighed and muscled by Harrell, he held his own. Lee accounted for Kentucky’s only 3 blocked shots of the game.
Marcus Lee is likely never going to be a guy this season that Kentucky has to count on for significant points or minutes. Lee’s biggest contributions might come in moments such as yesterday’s game when someone gets in foul trouble and Kentucky needs a few key minutes of solid defense, or a couple of important rebounds.
3. Karl Anthony Towns finally mixed it up in a physical game
The biggest knock on Towns so far this season has been that he hasn’t necessarily met the challenge head on when playing against physical teams in the post. In some of Kentucky’s biggest games this season, Towns has been unable to assert himself offensively in the post. Towns has been a monster on the glass, and has been a better shot blocker than anyone expected. When Kentucky was struggling for any hint of daylight down low against Louisville yesterday, Towns provided a few “big boy” plays where he outmuscled the Cards and grabbed a rebound, or put up a contested shot (or got fouled). While some of Kentucky’s other big men were fumbling the ball when receiving entry passes, Towns came up with the biggest and most effective offensive plays in the post for Kentucky yesterday. Just like Willie made himself some money against Texas a few weeks ago, Karl Anthony Towns showed his chops against future NBA talent (Montrezl Harrell) in front of a national audience and likely earned himself some money as well.
4. Andrew will be okay
Everyone wants to make a lot out of yesterday’s game regarding Andrew Harrison. I even caught myself stewing as I watched him slumping on the bench time and time again while his team was making a nice run on the court. As much as we want to live in the moment and fully jump on the Tyler Ulis train (and trust me, it’s a damn good train to be on), we can’t overlook the season Andrew has had so far. Tyler Ulis may very well be the best point guard Kentucky has now and the best point guard Kentucky has moving forward. But Andrew Harrison isn’t going to stop being a factor on this team. John Calipari won’t let it happen. You could see it in his post-game comments. He spent more time talking about Andrew than he did gushing over Ulis. Cal is good at this kind of stuff. He knows when his guys are down and he sees a very down Andrew Harrison right now. Cal will go to work over the next 10 days to get Andrew’s head right because whether you want to believe it or not…. Kentucky will need Andrew Harrison AND Tyler Ulis at various points in this long season. Don’t kid yourself into thinking otherwise. That match up yesterday was not made for Andrew Harrison. At all.