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HALLELUJAH!!!!!!! The four game losing streak is over. I honestly almost forgot how to write something following a victory, but I’m thankful the Wildcats gave me the opportunity once again. Maybe a trip to Tampa is what this team needed to regain the focus and intensity that had escaped them in recent weeks. I can tell you one thing for sure, the weather here is just a little bit nicer than the 35 degrees back in Kentucky, but why rub it in.
This year’s SEC Tournament definitely had a different feel than all the others that I have been too because of the struggles of this year’s Kentucky team. Normally, the talk of the fans is who they want to face in the next round, rather than this year’s will there be another Cat game to watch. Nevertheless, I remember once again why Kentucky fans are the best fans in the country. There are at least three or four times as many UK fans here in Tampa compared to those for all other teams. Every SEC Tournament game is truly a home game for our Cats.
Kentucky struggled defensively in the first half allowing Ole Miss to shoot over 50 percent from the field and committing entirely too many fouls allowing the Rebels to take a two point half-time lead. The Kentucky offense struggled, as well, in the first half against a zone defense that made it difficult for the Cats to get the ball inside to Patrick Patterson, who missed several easy shots inside making matters worse.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room with a new found defensive intensity that Ole Miss struggled to score against while committing numerous turnovers. Kentucky was able to put the clamps on Terrico White, who led the Rebels in scoring in the first half, allowing only six more points after the break. Darius Miller and Jodie Meeks led the offensive charge in the second half as Kentucky pulled away for a 71-58 victory.
One of the keys to the victory was the ability of players not named Meeks and Patterson to score the basketball. Perry Stephenson had his best game in a long time, keeping the Cats in the game in the first half with his scoring and rebounding. Darius Miller had another outstanding game scoring 12 points while making big play after big play. When Miller is an active participant in this offense, Kentucky is much more difficult to defend. Miller has the rare ability, at least on this team, to hit the three or drive the ball into the lane. His ability to score and play enough solid defense to stay on the court will have a big influence on how much longer the Cats stay alive here in Tampa.
Jodie Meeks had his best scoring game in recent memory, shooting 9-15 from the floor and not forcing many shots. He was able to penetrate the zone defense employed by Ole Miss and score in the lane, one of his strengths that he seemed to forget in recent games.
Next up for the Cats is a matchup with regular season SEC Champion LSU Tigers on Friday afternoon. Saying Kentucky owes LSU some pay back is an understatement. Kentucky’s defense will need to be at its best again and the ability to rebound the basketball will likely be the difference. I think the Wildcats will keep giving out some payback and win a close one 76-68. GO CATS!