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What a difference a week makes. Last Wednesday morning. I came to work all excited about the possibilities of the finish to the 2009 Kentucky Wildcat basketball season. This morning, besides being dead tired because my youngest son didn’t sleep at all last night, there is a huge cloud of doubt about what this year’s team will be able to accomplish. Will they be able to regain some momentum with what will hopefully be the return of Patrick Patterson on Saturday against Tennessee, or is this the beginning of the end for our consecutive berths in the NCAA Tournament?
As far as my usual game recap/summary, well here it is? (Pick any Vanderbilt player name and enter it here) is fouled and goes to the free throw line for two shots. Kentucky brings the ball down the court and tries feverishly to get the ball to Jodie Meeks who has to shoot with four guys guarding him. Throw in a horrible start to the second half and you have a 77-64 Vanderbilt win.
Whining about officiating is not something I ever like to do, but the men in stripes were sooooooo terrible Tuesday night that it must be discussed. Vanderbilt was 15-18 from the free throw stripe in the first half alone, scoring half of all their points. I think that every player on Kentucky’s roster had two fouls in the early going, with Darius Miller picking up his third with more than six minutes left in the half. For the game, the Commodores made 32-40 free throws, compared to only 23 attempts for the Cats. I just wish for once that our Wildcats would get some home cookin’ like Vandy did Tuesday night. Of course, you can’t solely blame the officials for this, the players and coaches have to realize that the game is being called tight and STOP FOULING PEOPLE!!! Vandy only made seven shots in the first half while shooting a whopping 33 percent. Maybe we should have made them make shots, but what do I know?
Another problem for Kentucky that loomed large was the size disadvantage that Vanderbilt utilized well, especially in the second half. A.J., don’t call me mate, Ogilvy had 15 points, 8 rebounds and pretty much dominated the inside. OK, maybe dominated is way too strong, but he was better than his Kentucky counterparts on this night. Perry Stevenson absolutely disappeared in this game on both sides of the ball. He was invisible on defense, which is normally his strong suit. With Kentucky struggling on the interior and being out rebounded in the second half, I still cannot figure out why we didn’t see more of Josh Harrellson. Harrellson played seven minutes in the game, all of which came in the early stages of the first half that he started. I guess we all need to stop wasting time trying to figure out our beloved head coach.
If you had told me prior to the game that Meeks would have 26 points, AJ Stewart 11 points, Kevin Galloway nine points, and Miller seven points, I would have told you that Kentucky gets the victory. After a first half where the players not named Meeks contributed in a positive way by attacking the basket and creating easier shots for teammates, the team seemed to go back to trying to force the ball to Meeks. I know he is the third leading scorer in America, but with all the attention he was getting, the other players would have had an easier time scoring. Frankly, they did that in the first half and again in the second half once the team was down by 16 points. These players all are on a basketball scholarship and are starting to be able to provide scoring. Just let them run an offense that doesn’t rely completely on one or two players.
Next up for the Cats is a home tilt against those Rocky Top singing, powder orange (did I just create a color??) clad boys from Tennessee. This is a must win game for the team’s chances to stay in the SEC Eastern Division race and for their NCAA Tournament life. I hope and pray that Patterson returns at close to full strength and the crowd is alive. Otherwise, it could be lights out for this season. I think the Cats fall short as Tennessee realizes they have to guard Meeks this time, 88-78.
(Brian Melton lives in Crittenden. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and is a contributor to the Grant County News.)