[Moderated by Matt Jones]
In a game where a lot was on the line, Kentucky came out a new team and began to play to win. The first half was something no one expected coming off of the tough loss in Knoxville, but it seems that the Cats have faith that they can make it without Nerlens. The players’ energy was up, and Ryan Harrow showed his feisty side with a shove on Johnson early on. While Vandy was able to start the game off with a 3, Kentucky quickly stepped up and showed the country that while others may view this season as a loss, they don’t. It seems like they got Uncle Julius’s message.
One of the biggest game changers is the comeback of Ryan Harrow. Maybe losing his starting position to Polson when the Cats played the vols lit a fire under him and motivated him to work harder to earn his spot back. While Willie is no Nerlens, he had a huge impact on the game and in the first half went 6-6 from the field giving Kentucky 14 points along with 5 rebounds. Together Ryan and Willie had 22 of the 42 points the Cats had going into the second half. Kentucky outscored Vandy in the paint 22-4.
Vanderbilt’s Odom was the biggest challenge for the Cats, in the first half he was 5-5 from the field until the last few minutes, and was 4-4 from the arc. Kentucky finished the half shooting 61% from the field and having 10 assists.
Uncle Julius Treys definitely made his presence known. After the statements he made after their last game, everyone got the impression that he was the one who was going to motivate the team. Like I said before, it’s obvious they got the message. The Cats weren’t playing like they were defeated, they played with inspiration and for the first time in a long time looked like they were enjoying themselves. Julius was hot from the 3 point line and his senior leadership has proven to be just as important as his performance on the court. While he’s new to Kentucky, he’s a veteran of the game and has a passion for it that everyone who sees him and plays with him has to respect. Julius made baskets tonight that came at times when they were desperately needed.
What you saw from Kyle Wiltjer tonight really did happen. He blocked shots, made a steal and was finally productive on the defensive end. Willie received his 3rd foul early on in the second half, followed by a 3rd foul from Harrow as well, leaving the Cats in some foul trouble. Thankfully, the bench was playing good tonight and it didn’t have that big of a negative impact on the Cats.
Ryan and Archie Goodwin finally both played good in the same game. Goodwin had 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. He made a huge basket from right inside the arc in the first half to further Kentucky’s lead 33-25 with 5 minutes left in the half.
The second half started to show the exhaustion of the team and it allowed Vandy to cut the lead to 2. Camp Cal may need to make a comeback as well. Poythress got the energy back up with a huge dunk to spread the lead back to 5. While Vandy kept cutting the lead for a while, Julius made a huge 3 with 3 minutes left in the half to make it 64-59 Cats. After a scuffle between Ryan Harrow and some Vandy players that ended with 2 players being ejected for coming off the bench; the cats were re-energized and ready to seal the win. Willie had one of his best defensive games of the year tonight and was a big reason the Cats got the W.
The Cats beat the ‘Dores in a game where they were under an even bigger microscope than usual, and did it with everyone contributing and putting forth effort. The final score was 74-70.
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