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I think it’s important to answer the most important question in every Wildcat fans mind right off the bat: yes, Kentucky was able to pull out a victory in the Blue-White Scrimmage on Wednesday night. Granted, it would have been impossible for anything other than that to happen, but what’s a good story without some drama.
Over 14,000 blue and white clad fans came out for the annual Blue-White scrimmage, a record crowd for the event. Still it was a bit odd to see Rupp Arena not completely full. But the folks in attendance were excited and ready to go at the tip and throughout the entire game. The largest cheer of the night came when John Calipari brought former coach Joe B. Hall out of the crowd and sat him on the bench. Our new coach sure knows how to make the fans love him even more, if that’s really possible at this point.
The starting five for the Blue team was John Wall, Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. Most assume, including myself, that this is the first team and could very well be the starting lineup come next Monday’s exhibition opener. The White team consisted of Darnell Dodson, Jon Hood, Perry Stevenson, Daniel Orton, and DeAndre Liggins, with Josh Harrellson, Ramon Harris, and Mark Krebs coming off the bench.
The teams definitely played with a higher intensity level than during the scrimmage portion of Big Blue Madness, with coach Calipari no doubt trying to determine which player combinations will be most effective. The luxury is that this season he has a lot more talent to work with. Last season, if Meeks or Patterson were in foul trouble or had to leave the game, it was lights out. This season, the possibilities are endless.
John Wall led the Cats in scoring with 25 points in his debut, with Patterson and Dodson also chipping in with 24 apiece. Dodson showed the deadeye shooting we had been hoping for, making 4-9 threes in the contest. I was also impressed with his ability to get to the basket and finish at the rim. He has that type of shot, a lot like Jodie Meeks whose shoes he is expected to fill, that you just expect to go in.
Patrick Patterson was at it again, showing off some new range, in making two three pointers. It is very obvious that he has been working on his outside shot and has improved his confidence. In years past, he seemed to shoot from the outside as an afterthought, rather than this game where he seemed to be doing so with a natural rhythm.
Jon Hood’s performance was both surprising and impressive. It is pretty obvious that Hood has a great deal of confidence in his shooting ability and is not afraid to take the open shot. His ability to get by his defender and get off his shot in traffic was unexpected and should help him earn playing time this season.
As a team, I thought the guards did a great job of penetrating and either finishing or dishing out to teammates for open shots. The speed at which John Wall and Eric Bledsoe are able to get the ball up the court will make this team hard to handle. As Calipari has stated, this team will likely see a lot of zone defense in an attempt to slow them down. The shooting performances of Dodson, Harrellson and others thus far has eased some of my fears of outside shooting, but a scrimmage is still not quite like the regular season.
The athleticism on this team is one of the biggest changes from last year’s team. The place that fans will notice this most is on the defensive side of the court. There were very few uncontested shots and the quick hands of all the players was amazing at times during the game. The impressive thing is that Calipari said after the game that “we have had nine days of practice and yesterday was the first day that I really, really zeroed in on defense.” So just imagine what the defense will look like after they spend some time with Allen Iverson’s favorite pastime, “practice.”
Monday, the Cats kickoff the exhibition season with a game against the Campbellsville
Tigers. All I know about Campbellsville is that my cousin Aaron completed a couple of years of undergrad there. The biggest question concerning this game is whether or not John Wall will play. There have been issues concerning his eligibility because of his former AAU coach and this game will be the first competition against another team. Wall will likely not be allowed to play if he hasn’t been cleared by the NCAA, so it will be interesting to see if any decisions are made leading up to Monday. As far as my prediction for the game, I’ll say the Cats will win big, 98-66.