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Cat Attack 1-28-10

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And It’s Over

By Brian Melton

Undefeated season, done. Unblemished SEC record, gone. A #1 ranking that lasted less than a day and a half, over. And all because of a phone call from Barack Obama, why does he have to ruin everything? Just joking Mr. President, not even an executive order from you to arrest Devan Downey could have helped Kentucky on this night. Actually that might have worked. It’s ok, we know you’re busy.

Kentucky played one of the worst halves of basketball of the season in the first twenty minutes in Columbia Tuesday night. Of course the second half wasn’t much better, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Cats committed nine turnovers, repeatedly demonstrated just awful decision making, and missed a million layups to shoot under 37% for the half. South Carolina shot worse than the Cats at 26%, but managed to keep it close with free throws, trailing only 29-26 at intermission.

Then Devan Downey happened. Over and over and over and over. If he wasn’t making impossible shots over half the Kentucky team, then he was getting fouled and scoring from the free throw line. And if he wasn’t getting fouled he had all five Wildcats running around all over the court like lost pups, allowing the other Gamecocks to come up with 20 offensive rebounds. Kentucky was outrebounded for only the fourth time this season, by a team that was much smaller, but obviously wanted it more. The Cats were unable to make enough plays down the stretch in losing for the first time this season 68-62.

So why are we talking about our first loss of the season? Inexperience. The team first of all did not value the basketball nearly enough, committing inexplicable turnovers time after time. Then there was the blown layup/dunk attempt by Darnell Dodson with the team down two or Eric Bledsoe’s brick of a layup when he easily could have dunked the basketball. For whatever reason, the young guys just seemed to make things much harder on themselves than they had to. I caught myself yelling “just make the easy play” at the TV several times during the game and Calipari stated after the game that the team was trying to make hero’s plays.

Need another reason, how about the offensive flow, or rather the lack thereof. The team seemed to settle on who was going to take the shot on each possession and then everyone else would stand around. There was no movement whatsoever and at times you had to wonder if there were any plays being run. When the team actually moved the ball and passed to each other it usually ended up with a layup or dunk.

“Patrick Patterson, please report to the gymnasium, your team is looking for you.” For the second time in three games Patterson failed to take a shot in the second half of a close game. We all know how good the freshman are and have been, but the team needs to get more than five points and eight rebounds out of their preseason All-American. With all the double and triple teams DeMarcus Cousins is going to receive, Patterson should be open in the paint. It would help if Cousins ever passed the ball, but he’s been the best player on the court most games. Maybe the Cats should try running a play for Patterson. A crazy idea I know.

Big Blue Nation, myself included, has to avoid the sky is falling mentality and realize that as Calipari has stated all season, this first loss should have come months ago. (See Miami, Stanford, UCONN) But in the end, one loss in late January means very little in the grand scheme of things to a team whose ultimate goal is cutting down the nets in Indianapolis in early April.

Would it have been nice to go undefeated, sure, but when the NCAA tournament starts every team has the same chance to win six straight games for the crown. Hopefully the Cats learn from this and it makes them better down the road. Down the road starts Saturday as the SEC East leading Vanderbilt Commodores come to town. Vandy is another team, much like South Carolina, who has had great success against Kentucky in recent years and hopefully Kentucky will find the intensity that was missing Tuesday night in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. Until then, stay away from bridges and tall buildings just to be safe.