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Cat Attack 11-09-09

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Now that’s more like it

By Brian Melton

The Wildcats’ performance, against what Coach Calipari said was improved competition, was exactly what I had expected for an exhibition game.  Scoring a lot of points, by a lot of different players, winning by a lot.  Overall, there was just a lot to like about this game.

Prior to tip-off Calipari received two jerseys in recognition of his career playing for his alma mater, the Clarion Golden Eagles.  Calipari was joined at midcourt by his former coach, while a rather humorous photo was displayed on the video boards inside Rupp Arena.  We shouldn’t really laugh at old photos of someone else because you know there is some of each of us out there as well, but at least 24,000 people hopefully won’t get to laugh together at us all at once.  

Once the game tipped off the Cats came out very aggressive and jumped out to a 8-0 lead on two DeMarcus Cousins baskets inside followed by a John Wall three.  After the quick start Clarion was never able to recover, as Kentucky applied a full court press after every made basket that made it very difficult for the Golden Eagles to get anything accomplished on offense.  The Cats completely dominated every phase of the game and built a 36-point halftime lead before cruising to a 117-52 victory.

Unlike the first exhibition game there was very little to dislike about this performance.  The only thing that was a little disheartening was the injury to Daniel Orton in the first half that was later described as chest soreness, which kept the talented freshman out for the rest of the game.  Hopefully he’ll be ready for the season opener Friday night, but the last report was that he was day to day.

The Cats placed six players in double figures on a night where every player that took the court scored, other than Orton who ended up playing only four minutes on the night.  These players just seem to get along and have no problem sharing the basketball.  One concern prior to the season was the blending of all the talented newcomers with the holdovers from last season’s team and thus far there seems to be no problems.  Granted it’s early in the season and when your winning by more than thirty points every night it should be pretty easy to get along.

The defense was extremely impressive during this game as at times Clarion had difficulties getting the ball across half court.  At times, it seemed that the Cats were everywhere and after the game Calipari stated that he wanted it to seem like there were six of them out there at once.  I think Clarion would agree that this was the case that night.  

The ability of the team to remain focused on the task at hand while up by 50 points was also very important.  At one point in the second half I looked at the scoreboard and realized that the team was up by almost sixty points, but by simply looking at the team’s effort you would have thought they were down by ten.  The defensive intensity was still there and the Cats were still trying to push the ball up the court.  Calipari said after the game that this team is very coachable and the ability to focus under those circumstances seem to back that up.

Our freshman class might end up being pretty good this year.  I know it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out, but man these guys are impressive.  Wall and Cousins scored 27 and 20 points respectively, but the energy and passion they bring to the team is immeasurable.  You can just see the spark in Wall’s eye and he has the ability to score points in bunches seemingly without trying.  Also, his desire to get his teammates involved is something that can’t be undervalued.  This statement after the game says it best.  “It's not a one-man show. I have Kentucky basketball on my chest and I'm trying to support my team and do the best I can to help them win games."

The regular season gets underway Friday night as the Cats face off against the Morehead State Eagles in Rupp Arena.  The Eagles were an NCAA Tournament team last season and return their conferences player of the year.  Maybe Calipari’s sales job has worked on me, but without John Wall I bet this game is closer than we would like.  I say Kentucky pulls away in the second half and wins 80-62.