Cat Attack 11-3-09

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The Caliparty Has Finally Begun!

By Brian Melton

Monday night, the John Calipari era of Kentucky basketball officially kicked off with an exhibition game with Campbellsville University.  This was the team’s first chance to tangle with someone other than each other and quite honestly the results were pretty underwhelming.  I know, I know, I’m just another crazy UK fan that is complaining after a 34-point victory.  Well, like most UK fans, my expectation level for this team has been so high that I’m not sure it is possible to reach.  As Calipari has preached throughout the entire preseason and leading up to this game, this team has a lot of room to grow and thankfully we are just getting started.

The Cats played a sloppy game, committing 23 turnovers against a Campbellsville team that applied little to no pressure on the ball.  The team made countless unforced turnovers and at times had a difficult time making the easy plays.  The team struggled mightily with fast breaks, which should be a strength, mostly because of poor spacing.  Granted, one of, if not the best player on the team in John Wall did have to sit this one out, so I guess some struggles should have been expected.  

The biggest surprise to me was the inability or at least the difficulty the team had scoring points.  Kentucky only scored 49 points in over 32 minutes of game action before the Perry Stevenson explosion occurred in the last six minutes.  The Cats absolutely dominated the inside, with the Tigers biggest player at 6’9”, but at times the team seemed to forget about the big fellas inside.  Whenever Cousins, Patterson or Orton received the ball, it usually ended in a lay-up or dunk.  Honestly, I think the team is still learning a totally new offense and is still trying to figure out how to utilize the immense talent they have in the post.

Let’s move on to the positives from the game.  The overall defensive effort of the team was great.  Campbellsville only managed to make 3 of 25 shots in the first half for a whopping 12%.  The Cats pressed the Tigers after almost every made basket and the quick hands of this team is unbelievable.  And I don’t just mean Bledsoe and Wall, I mean the big men as well.  Cousins has been able to strip many players on the break and, along with Orton and Patterson, have made it very difficult going on the inside.  This frontcourt is long and super quick and it is going to be difficult for teams to score on the inside this season.

Although the team as a whole struggled offensively, Darnell Dodson and Eric Bledsoe showed promise as viable scoring options this season.  Dodson led the team with 19 points making half his shots, while again demonstrating an ability to get to the basket.  I walked past Dodson on the court during warm-ups and was amazed at just how tall he is at 6’7”.  That along with his long arms and ability to hit the outside shot will make him a scoring threat for this team all season long.  

Let’s be honest. This was sort of a ho hum game for myself and most of the crowd that witnessed it.  We saw a young team, with their Pre-Season All American being essentially invisible and their starting point guard in street clothes, win a game by 34 points.  We all need to remember that these exhibition games are just another step toward the start of the season and that the national championship is not won until March.  There is a lot of promise on this team and the fun is just beginning.