Feb 1, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT
Julius Randle finished with 18 points, nine boards, three assists and three steals and Kentucky’s three perimeter players — the Harrison twins and James Young — combined for 55 points, seven assists and just three turnovers as No. 11 Kentucky picked up a huge win on Saturday, knocking off Missouri on the road, 84-79.
The first half was precisely the kind of performance that Kentucky fans wanted to see out of the Wildcats. They played hard, they played together, they defended, they made the extra pass, they pounded the ball into Randle. When Dominique Hawkins hit the floor in the first half, the entire team sprinted over to help him up.
Tuesday’s loss at LSU looked like Kentucky was going through a walk-through at a shootaround. Saturday’s performance brought a completely different level of energy. And that, in the end, may be the key to Kentucky’s season.
There is simply no questioning the talent level on this roster, even if you are in the camp that believes that Aaron and Andrew Harrison are overrated and even if Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress continue to put together an up-and-down career. On paper, the Wildcats can compete with anyone in the country. On the court, that’s not necessarily the case, and the cause often boils down to effort and intensity.
This Kentucky team, at times, can has a distinct lack of toughness, both mentally and physically. That wasn’t the case on Saturday.
I’ll give you an example: at one point in the second half, the Wildcats were up 49-33. But Jabari Brown and Jordan Clark both got into a rhythm in the second half, routinely dissecting the Kentucky defense off the dribble. Brown finished with 33 points. Clarkson had 28. They put on a show, one that will once again raise serious question marks about Kentucky’s perimeter defense.
With two minutes left, Brown hit a 26-foot three and drew a foul on a questionable call. The ensuing free throw cut the Kentucky lead to 78-75. The Wildcats were on the verge of an epic collapse in a incredibly important game on the road. For a team that has yet to prove capable of thriving in situations like that, this was concerning.
But Kentucky executed in the final three possession, getting a bucket each time they had the ball, and much of the credit should be given to Andrew Harrison. He made the plays that a point guard is supposed to make, finishing with 14 points, four assists and just a single turnover. He made the right decisions and got the ball to the right people.
Kentucky played as well as they can play for the first 25 minutes on Saturday. They survived blowing a lead against a good team on the road.
No matter how you slice it, this was a promising performance from Kentucky.
Mar 10, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT
Justin Bieber and Rick Barnes! I shouldn’t have to say more.
Mar 10, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
AMERICAN Player of the Year: Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati) Coach of the Year: Mick Cronin (Cincinnati) Newcomer of the Year: Nic Moore (SMU) First Team All-American Nic Moore (SMU) Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati) Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) Russ Smith (Louisville) Montrezl Harrell (Louisville) Second Team All-American Joe Jackson (Memphis) Victor Rudd (South Florida) Isaiah Sykes (Central Florida) Justin…
Mar 10, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
Regular season champion Southern’s ineligible for the NCAA tournament, which could open the door for Texas Southern to grab the league’s automatic bid.
Mar 10, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT
Florida is still No. 1. Wichita State is still No. 2. How does the rest of the Top 25 shake out?
Mar 10, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Wichita State is unbeaten, but would they get the nod over the Gators when Selection Sunday rolls around?
Mar 10, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
Doug McDermott is on the list, but who joined him on the first team?
Mar 10, 2014, 1:16 AM EDT
We know Joel Embiid’s back is bothering him, but should we be worried about whether or not he’ll be healthy for the NCAA tournament?
Mar 10, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT
Three more teams earn automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, Nebraska strengthens its resume and two regular season champions fall in conference tournaments.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:09 PM EDT
Catch up on all of today’s bubble action. Is Nebraska a lock after beating Wisconsin? Can St. Joseph’s still dance after losing to La Salle?
Mar 9, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT
Picked to finish last in the Big Ten’s preseason poll, Nebraska moved closer to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998 with a win over No. 9 Wisconsin.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:26 PM EDT
William & Mary beats Towson, moving to within 40 minutes of their first NCAA tournament berth.
Mar 9, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT
No. 22 Michigan State’s late-game execution left much to be desired on Sunday.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT
LaQuinton Ross finally found his scoring touch, but that wasn’t the main reason the Buckeyes won.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:38 PM EDT
Did she say yes?
Mar 9, 2014, 6:31 PM EDT
Top-seeded Fightin’ Blue Hens will play William & Mary (7 p.m., NBCSN) with an NCAA tournament berth on the line.
Mar 9, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT
Get to know the fifth entry into the 2014 NCAA Tournament field, the Mercer Bears
Mar 9, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
The Missouri Valley Conference had an unfortunate mistake in the t-shirts that they gave Wichita State for winning the conference tournament.
Mar 9, 2014, 4:54 PM EDT
Wichita State Shockers will head into the NCAA tournament at 34-0, the first team to be undefeated on Selection Sunday in 23 years.
Mar 9, 2014, 4:49 PM EDT
Winner gets a chance to earn an automatic bid to the Big Dance.
- College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25 3
- Bracketology: Florida in driver’s seat for overall No. 1 seed 3
- NBCSports.com’s 2014 College Basketball All-Americans 7
- Bubble Banter: Nebraska’s marquee win, St. Joseph’s problematic loss 0
- Turnovers help Ohio State beat No. 22 Michigan State in regular season finale 1
- Wichita State will head into the NCAA tournament 34-0 as a No. 1 seed 10
- Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood score 54 in No. 4 Duke’s win over No. 14 UNC 0
- Wichita State will head into the NCAA tournament 34-0 as a No. 1 seed (10)
- No. 7 Syracuse falls to Georgia Tech in a shocking home loss (9)
- NBCSports.com’s 2014 College Basketball All-Americans (7)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25 (6)
- Assigned Reading: Dean Smith’s health continues to deteriorate (6)