In a way, it’s comforting to know that we can play as poorly as we did today and still beat a quality team like Vanderbilt on the road. Kentucky had its worst shooting day of the season from the field (36 percent), made just 17-of-30 free throws (56.7 percent), and were out-rebounded 38-27 by a team they out-rebounded 39-21 a few weeks back, but still found a way to make the plays down the stretch to allow them to pull out a close victory. On the one hand, it’s discouraging to see a team with the talent level of Kentucky get man-handled on the glass and turn it over fifteen times. On the other, it’s good to know that we have the ability to make plays when we need them. Nights like this are inevitable; you’re not going to play your best every time you step on the court – especially not a team this young. But all things considered – Vandy coming in fired up because of the blowout from three weeks ago, the funky stadium, the rowdy atmosphere – Kentucky could’ve played much worse. Notes:
– As I mentioned in my previous post, John Wall didn’t play his best game. He finished with 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field, was 1-of-6 from behind the arc, 6-of-10 from the free throw line, and had just one assist for the game. However, he made the big plays when it mattered. His bucket with :40 left put Kentucky up two, then his free throws with :22 remaining put Kentucky up four. Then, his block and steal on Jermain Beal with :04 left on the clock all but sealed it for the Wildcats. Wall’s performance was just a microcosm of Kentucky as whole today; overall, he had a subpar game, but he made the plays when he had to. He deserves a lot of credit for that.
– One player who did not make plays down the stretch – or at any point in the game, for that matter – was Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe finished with just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field, and missed his final four free throws down the stretch, including two that could’ve essentially ended the game. I like Bledsoe, but he has a tendency to play slightly out of control at times that makes me – and apparently Brad Nessler – a little confused. He’s definitely tough, almost to the point that it works against him. On nights like tonight, when you’re not hitting anything, there’s nothing wrong with deferring to your teammates. Instead, Bledsoe continued to force up bad shots, overpenetrate, and just be an offensive liability in general. He’s just a freshman, so nights like this are going to happen from time to time. Hopefully this one serves as a learning experience.
– After going nearly two months without one, Patrick Patterson got his second straight double-double tonight. He finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, and hit some huge buckets down the stretch for Kentucky that either gave them the lead or kept them in contention. I’m praying that these past couple of games are signs of things to come for Patterson. There for awhile, he seemed to be a little bit lost in the offense. I’m not sure how much of that was his fault, but he has seemed more aggressive – both on the glass and when looking for his own shot – over these past two games.
– Darius Miller hit a 3-point shot for the second straight game, for whatever that’s worth.
– In a performance that was reminiscent of early in the season, Kentucky’s bench gave them almost nothing today. Liggins, Orton, Dodson, and Stevenson combined for all seven of Kentucky’s bench points.