I know denimjersey promised you some of the more-objective, less-emotional game analysis that we here at Lexpats have become known for, but I’m afraid that will just have to wait until some other time. I want to rant.
Fuck Devan Downey. Dude finished with 30 points–12 of which came in the final ten minutes–to go along with two steals, five boards, and clutch bucket after clutch bucket down the stretch in one of the most ridiculous shooting performances I’ve ever seen. I know it says Downey finished the game 9-for-28 from the field, but reading those numbers makes me feel like I’ve ingested crazy pills. Downey hit seemingly every shot he took in the second half, which included one seven-point spurt over 90 seconds that turned a tie game into a four-point South Carolina lead that the Gamecocks would not relinquish.
It never feels good to lose, especially when it’s your first game as the #1 ranked team in the nation, on a day that the President of the United States calls to tell you “Thanks A Lot and Good Luck!” But that’s exactly what happened. South Carolina played out of their minds, and Kentucky played very much within theirs. As I sat on my futon watching Downey hit ridiculous fadeaway jumper after ridiculous high-arcing bank shot on my seedy, Justin TV-provided online stream, the following seven words kept popping into my head: Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Tonight was one of those times for Kentucky. Downey went off. South Carolina decided to rebound the ball for the first time all season. Patterson did nothing. Ditto for Bledsoe. Wall came alive at the end but was busy being a non-factor for most of the night. Call it an off night. Call it a perfect storm. Whatever it was, it’s something that–if we’re being completely honest with ourselves–could’ve, maybe even should’ve happened a time or two before. Earlier today, Calipari said something to the extent of, “We’ve just had a lot of lucky bounces this year that other teams haven’t gotten. We’re a bounce or two away from being 15-4, Texas and Kansas are a bounce or two away from being undefeated.” Well, we got our bad bounces tonight. Now it’s time to lick our wounds and get ready for Vanderbilt on Saturday. But first, some observations from tonight:
Putting out an APB for Patrick Patterson: What in the hell is wrong with this guy all of the sudden? For two years, Patterson was a model of consistency. He was our best scorer, best rebounder, best defender, our go-to guy when we absolutely had to have a bucket, as well as the one guy on the team that we could say, No need to worry about him–he always gets his. Well, all of the sudden, Mr. Reliable/Scorer/Rebounder/Clutch/Consistency is averaging just 8.6 points/night over his past three games, 5.7 boards/night over his past seven games, and seems to be becoming a smaller and smaller part of our offense with every game that passes. Tonight, he finished with five points and eight rebounds. That would’ve been considered a bad night for him as a freshman, let along as a junior on the #1 ranked team in America’s first game while holding that title. I don’t know if Cousins’ emergence is limiting his touches and therefore making it tougher for him to get in rhythym, or if maybe Calipari’s offense just isn’t a good fit for a guy with his skill set. Whatever the reason, it needs to be addressed, and it needs to be fixed by Saturday.
Did Darius Miller play tonight? Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with this guy? How, after having the most productive night of your college career, can you come out and not score a point in 14 minutes of action. And it’s not just the scoring, it’s the complete and total lack of presence when he’s out there. Tonight, he pulled down just a single rebound, had no assists, no steals, and didn’t attempt a shot that wasn’t a kickout 3-pointer (and he only took two of those). Moreover, I don’t remember him being involved in a single important play all night. It’s not just Miller’s scoring that’s inconsistent, it’s his effort and offensive aggression as well, and that’s what’s hurting Kentucky the most. When Miller plays in the offensive mindset he played in tonight, he turns into another Michael Porter–a guy that the other team doesn’t even have to worry about defending. He doesn’t look for his own shot, which is always bad, but especially so for Miller, considering the only reason he starts is he’s supposed to be the best pure scorer of that quartet of himself, Liggins, Harris, and Dodson. If I’m Calipari, I’ve got to seriously consider starting Dodson or Liggins against Vanderbilt. It’s not that Miller suddenly isn’t the best of that group (none of them played fantastic tonight), it’s that he has by far the most potential and he still played like a pussy tonight (and this isn’t the first time it’s happened). Maybe starting a game or two on the sideline would toughen him up a bit.
Okay, I’m just going to say it: Right now, John Wall is–just a little bit–overrated. Preseason hype and some late game heroics and have catapulted Wall to the forefront of the National Player of the Year discussion, but I’m not totally convinced he’s even the best freshman on our team, let alone the best player in the country. DeMarcus Cousins is bringing it every night, and I can’t say the same for Wall. Let’s play a little game called Player A versus Player B. All of these numbers are averages over Kentucky’s last five games (Georgia through South Carolina):
Player A: 17.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1 assist, 57% (31-for-54) FG, 1.4 steals, 2 blocks, 1.8 turnovers
Player B: 16.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 40% (26-for-65) FG, 1.2 steals, .6 blocks, 3.6 turnovers
Which player seems more valuable to you?
Player B scores almost a point less per game, but he does give you almost four more assists (which translates to roughly 8 to 12 more points). At the same time, Player B turns the ball over twice as much.
Player A, on the other hand, grabs six more rebounds per contest, blocks three times as many shots, gets more steals, and scores more points on fewer shots, creating a significantly better shooting percentage from the field.
The points and the assists numbers should give it away–Cousins is Player A and Wall is Player B. I’m not doing this in an effort to prove to everyone that Cousins should be Player of the Year over Wall, I just want to illustrate that, despite the fact that Wall does some overtly amazing things, so does Cousins. And sometimes, as the numbers show, he does them more effectively.
Now, I realize that you could argue that Wall makes Cousins life infinitely easier by using his playmaking prowess to create lots of easy looks for Cousins inside, and for the most part you’d be right. But, you certainly can’t say that about tonight. Cousins did almost all of his damage with his back to the basket, and Wall ended the night with just two assists.
Wall is a great player, and he should be the first player selected in this summer’s draft, but he’s not dominating like he should right now. In order for UK to be a Final Four team, and avoid anymore nights like tonight, he’s got to start A) taking more high-percentage shots and B) cut down on the turnovers.
Well, that’s all for now. Let’s try to enjoy the five days we have left of seeing that #1 next to our name.