What an amazing day of basketball!! I am so drained from so many games, I almost don't know where to start. Marquette upsets UConn, Syracuse NARROWLY escapes DePaul, Illinois over Indiana at the buzzer, West Virginia comes back to beat Lousiville, Georgetown DESTROYING Duke, Texas loses to Baylor in OT...I'm out of breath just making that list. So here are some thoughts, observations and general comments from the day that was...
KENTUCKY vs. VANDERBILT
It was pretty much a given that Kentucky was going to play out of their minds today after the loss to South Carolina on Tuesday. That said, it remained to be seen whether it would be out of their minds in a good way or a bad way...well, I THINK they answered that question with some authority.
The key really for the Wildcats was HUSTLE, especially from DeMarcus Cousins. UK ran the floor, dove for the ball, crashed the boards and basically took Vandy out of any kind of game they hoped to have. Cousins was a complete beast inside, using his size and strength to its fullest and really taking it strong to the hoop down low. He was surely a difference-maker in this game and his presence absolutely shook up Aussie star A.J. Ogilvey, who got into foul trouble and didn't even score his first points until he went to the FT line with a few minutes remaining in the first half. With Cousins dominating inside, Patrick Patterson decided to assert himself from the 3 point line and hit some key shots, especially in the first half and John Wall (still love him) set a Kentucky freshman assist record.*
*Sidenote: One of the reasons I LOVE John Wall...he can clearly score early and often, yet he's really unselfish with the ball and ALWAYS looks up the floor. Apparently he hasn't been playing as well in games lately, but when you consider a "bad game" to be 12 points and 9 assists (and ok, 7 turnovers, not so good), I think he'll be fine. Plus, it's the old standby--teams are keying on him more and more, so he'll just have to adjust.
Kentucky got in foul trouble early (at one point, Bledsoe, Wall and Cousins were all sharing the bench for a significant period of time in the first half) and I'm not sure if it was that or Kentucky relaxing a bit with the large lead that allowed Vanderbilt to fight back a little in the second half--but all I want to know is this from Commodore Jeffrey Taylor: When you are down 12 on the road and have a chance to cut the lead to 10, why, why, WHY do you decide to showboat and completely MISS a reverse dunk that leads to a Kentucky score and a lead of 15?!?!?! Vandy just looked completely out of their element. I haven't really watched them at all this year, so I can't really comment on this or that, but I was really surprised at how poorly they played.
MICHIGAN STATE vs. NORTHWESTERN
Now HERE are the Spartans I know and love. The score is a bit deceiving, because it makes it look like the game was a lot closer than it was, but once the second half started, the Spartans were in control and never looked back. Northwestern actually played well--they hit amazing shots in the first half to keep it so close and hit some big 3s toward the end to make it appear they had a chance. The thing I really noticed about the Wildcats was their confidence. I have never seen a Northwestern team look like that--they didn't seem intimidated or flustered no matter what the score. Everyone wrote them off after Coble got injured and it gets mentioned a lot that NO ONE expected them to be this competitive without him. I hope they do well....just not against MSU...ha!
But back to the Spartans. All the analysts have talked about Kalin Lucas and how AMAZING he's been in the last two games (Minnesota and Michigan)...while I do think he's great, I've personally felt like he hasn't really shown up until late in the game (and thank goodness he DID, but it would have been nice to have him the whole time) and FINALLY tonight I saw the old Kalin the entire game. Sharp passes, slashing to the basket, hitting FTs, all of it! The team as well looked pretty sharp. They crashed the boards HARD, took care of the ball really well, always looked to make the extra pass, were strong inside...it was great! Durrell Summers was ridiculous and even Chris Allen had some spectacular dunks that I don't think I've ever seen before. Raymar Morgan didn't have a stellar game, but he still played pretty well and I think some of the fouls that took him out of it were a bit silly. The other thing that I loved was that the Spartans were calm and poised even after NW hit shots and closed the gap. They hit (most) of their free throws down the stretch as well....although Draymond Green needs to spend a BIT more time at the line (still adore him though).
KANSAS vs. KANSAS STATE
I am not going to into super-analysis on this one, because I was watching MSU most of the time, but CRAP!! WHAT A GAME!! K-State came out of nowhere for me, so I really know nothing about them, but the last few minutes and especially the overtime were really exciting. I loved the energy of the crowd as well...they were so loud and excited the entire time, their hearts must be crushed right about now. One thing that was interesting was watching Kansas be a little flustered and make some crucial mistakes that (almost) cost them the game--like missing free throws, almost throwing the ball away on the last possession of regulation and Collins then tripping on his drive that led to OT. HOWEVER, Collins did step up big time and hit a HUGE tough shot to seal the win...regardless of anything else, K-State couldn't seal the deal and Kansas did. It will be interesting to see how the Big 12 plays out...a lot of great teams in that conference.
~It seemed like the refs were calling a LOT of fouls today. I don't know if they have been told to tighten up or with all the close games they wanted to keep control...but the whistles were going left, right and center. It actually got a little annoying, because it interrupts the flow of the game, but regardless, it just seemed like more than usual. Who knows.
~DeMarcus Cousins contributes in a lot of positive ways to Kentucky basketball, but he needs to shut his mouth. Cousins does a lot of jawing and has thrown a few questionable elbows, especially today. It disappoints me to see a kid behave that way, especially when his play can do the talking. Shut your mouth and play kids. Thanks.
~Hopefully now that MSU beat Northwestern at the Breslin, we can stop talking about how Kevin Coble single-handedly destroyed the Spartans last year. We get it, he was amazing and hit 3 pointers backwards, upside down, off his left pinkie toe. We ALL remember. No need to keep re-living it. Thanks.
P.S.--Props to the K-State crowd. Incredible. I haven't heard a game that loud in a loooong time. I also love that they refer to the arena as "the Octagon of Doom." Awesome.