Sunday, March 28, 2010

Worst. Shooting. Ever.

Three of Kentucky's major flaws reared their ugly heads in last nights loss to West Virginia: poor three point shooting, youth and poor free throw shooting. The zone defense that WVU used against the Cats held them to 4-32 from the three, the worst shooting I have ever witnessed from a Kentucky basketball team. The Cats added a very poor 16-29 from the free throw line. If they had hit half of their free throws then they win the game.

West Virginia had been a team defined by it's size and hustle but hindered by it's own shooting demons. Those demons had apparently been exercised. The Mountaineers were down in the first half and could not score in the lane. Their first 4 shots were all threes. And they kept hitting them. WVU was 44% from three land while the Cats were 13%. That just won't cut it.

WVU played an outstanding game and Joe Mazulla had the night of his life. The kid that just averaged 2.2 points a game and was seen as a weakness when "Truck" Bryant went down, had a dazzling 17 points. Good for that kid.

Kentucky dominated the boards 45-34 but it still did not matter. There was an instance in the game that was a microcosm of the entirety. Kentucky had four offensive rebounds and had four shots. The missed all of them.

If anyone questions the passion of UK's players, all they needed to do was to look in the locker room after the game. They were all sitting silently at their lockers, looking like they had just lost their closest friend in a terrible accident. That is the difference between college and the pros. Even if a professional loses a game he is still going to get paid. It hurts to lose but the money will always soften the blow. To the college kids the victories are the payment. All of the hard work, the practice, the study sessions, the media hype, the scrutiny, all of it is worth it as long as you win. Last night just wasn't their night.

We will have to wait and see what Wall, Patterson, Cousins and Bledsoe do. I think Orton likely stays. His game is still raw and undefined and he could use one more year of experience before he jumps to the big leagues. The one super star that might surprise everybody and stay is DeMarcus Cousins. He has repeatedly said that he loves it at UK and it is one of the few places that he has felt completely accepted.

The recruits are going to be what they usually are; young, talented kids that need to do their one year in the college ranks before jumping into the NBA. Let's hope that Cal can get the best out of them before they leave.

I have to say that I am sad that this team lost before getting to the Final Four. They were a great group of kids that genuinely liked each other and had fun. I felt all season that it was their championship to lose. And indeed, last night they beat themselves. It was a pleasure watching them bring Kentucky basketball back into the spotlight.

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