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Kentucky Shuts Down Undefeated Irish
As I turned on my TV to watch Kentucky take on Notre Dame in the Big East/SEC Invitational I had to rub my eyes and take a second look to be sure the game was really being played in Louisville. No big red bird with teeth in the middle of the court and my favorite shade of blue all around with Wildcats on the baseline. Freedom Hall has never looked better and with a 72-58 UK victory all things are right in the world.
The Cats once again struggled in the first half after Josh Harrellson picked up two early fouls, heading to the bench with over 15 minutes left until the break. Kentucky found themselves down by 11 points with just under five minutes left in the half primarily because of their inability to defend Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough, who scored 19 points in the first half. His hot shooting coupled with a lack of interior defense and rebounding made it seem UK was in for a long night. Contributions from a couple unlikely sources, 3 pointers from Jon Hood and Stacey Poole when the team was struggling to score, helped the Cats get back into the game and tie things up at 40 at the break.
The Wildcats scored first after the half and never trailed again. A defensive pressure that had been seemingly nonexistent in the first half and at times throughout the season thus far reappeared just in time. Notre Dame struggled to make any shots, shooting a whopping 20% in the second half. Kentucky rebounded the ball well and scored just enough down the stretch to come away with the 72-58 victory.
Terrence Jones returned to action after a one game hiatus from the team, wait that’s not true, he just played with the focus and energy we have come to expect from the freshman against the Irish. He once again led the team in scoring with 27 points and 17 rebounds while hitting two huge, and questionable if he had missed, threes down the stretch to carry the Cats to victory. He can be as dominating as any player in college basketball when he plays with the right focus and energy and evidently the key for him is to avoid naps at all cost. Who knew?
Brandon Knight chipped in with 20 points, 5 assists, and only 2 turnovers on a less than spectacular shooting night. He continues to learn how to lead the team and run the offense effectively. The kid can flat score and is learning how to get his teammates involved. It’s becoming very obvious that for this Kentucky team to be successful both Knight and Jones must play well.
Kentucky continues to demonstrate their youth at times this season, much like last year’s team, with questionable shot selection and careless turnovers. The Cats can look absolutely unstoppable for stretches and then act like it is their first game ever in the same half of basketball. That is why it is so important for the few experienced players on the team, I’m talking about you Darius and DeAndre, to be involved in the game and to help lead this team. Otherwise Coach Cal is going to haveThe trouble is that those two are not exactly the number one options on offense, but need to find a way to contribute in other ways.
The Wildcats continue their tour of Indiana basketball teams when they welcome the 9-1 Hoosiers to Rupp Arena Saturday night. I personally can’t wait to see those goofy looking candy cane warm-up pants, but hey at least it’s almost Christmas which makes it seem not quite as odd. Well, maybe.