Kentucky’s Wildcats came onto the Georgia Dome floor last night with one thing in mind, advancing to the Elite 8. In their way, a border rival in the Indiana Hoosiers. A Hoosiers team that had already defeated Kentucky 73-72 earlier in the season. Is revenge a factor? Everyone says no, but we all know it’s true. With the ball at center court, the teams are lined up and ready for the tip. The game ball in the referees hands. With a heave towards the sky, the battle is on.
Kentucky raced out of the gates like thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs. Terrence Jones was leading the charge for the Big Blue, nailing a three to open the game. With all but thirty four seconds gone in the game, a loud whistle stops the charge. The referee turned to the scorer’s table and signaled “23″. A quick, early foul on Anthony Davis. Indiana was not going to take this Kentucky surge lightly as they came out trying to match the Wildcats The very next possession, Indiana center Cody Zeller drove straight to the basket on Davis and scored. Davis trying not to pick up another foul, seemingly let Zeller drive by. The hard, loud footsteps thundering through the Georgia Dome sounded more like a bunch of wild horses than basketball players. The intensity was still ringing through the building as the teams traded basket for basket. Zeller layup, Jones for 2, Zeller layup, Teague/Lamb layup. This was the start of a battle.
With only six minutes gone in the game, Davis was slow to get back on defense. The hurried freshman raced into the front-court and slapped the arm of Indiana guard Victor Oladipo during his shot. I muttered under my breath and ducked my head as I said “not again”. This was the same recipe that played out for Kentucky in the previous match, leaving us all with a bitter taste in our mouth. Davis went to the bench, and would not be seen for the rest of the half. With Davis on the bench, Indiana was poised to make a run and push some doubt in the mind of the Big Blue. However, the fouls were piling up on the Hoosiers. Less than a minute after Davis picked up his second foul, Indiana’s Cody Zeller picked up his first. Seven seconds later, Zeller picked up his second. A huge blow to the Indiana charge as Zeller was hindered the same as his counterpart Davis. Without the two big men on the floor, the game remained a one possession affair until UK coach John Calipari inserted Kyle Wiltjer. After Kyle had broken a couple of shooting drill records during the week, Calipari said he had the green light to fire away at the Hoosiers. Marquis Teague drove down the court in a hard charge, Wiltjer mirroring his action. Wiltjer peeled off from Teague’s path, circled back to the three-point line and put his hands up. Teague flipped the ball back to Wiltjer and Kyle flicked a three-point bomb straight through the net. After a defensive stop, Darius Miller drove through the Indiana defense and hopped into the middle of the lane for a jumper. He missed, but tipped his own shot back in to give Kentucky a four point lead heading into the media timeout.
Jones pushed the ‘Cats ahead 31-22 after Teague threw him a high lob that he slammed through the hoop. The defensive breakdown caused Indiana coach Tom Crean to burn a timeout. Zeller sneaked back into the game with his two fouls. Playing cautiously, Zeller and guard Will Sheehey brought Indiana back to within striking distance, 31-26. Now Kentucky coach John Calipari felt the momentum shifting, and burned a timeout of his own. The rest of the half was a back and forth offensive battle. Indiana getting to the rim at will, and Kentucky racing down to counter. Indiana at one point, took the lead and pushed it to a 43-39 advantage. After a tv timeout, the play of Jones, Miller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist surged the ‘Cats ahead and gave them the halftime lead at 50-47.
After halftime, Indiana and Cody Zeller began the half the same way they started the game. Zeller backed down Anthony Davis and scored over him. Kentucky managed to shake the Hoosier surge to begin the half, and gained a slim lead of their own after a jumper from guard Doron Lamb. The boys in blue were able to keep their slim lead over the Hoosiers from there on out. Kentucky’s offensive weapons were beginning to show they were too much for Indiana to deal with. The Hoosiers had troubles matching the ‘Cats and then trying to stop them on the defensive end. Towards the half way point in the 2nd half, the ‘Cats lead had grown to eight. The fouls were piling up on the Hoosiers, and the ‘Cats were capitalizing at the free-throw line. Kentucky slowly but surely built a more comfortable lead, stretching it to thirteen. Indiana would fire back and get the game as close as five points, but could not stop the offensive show from Kentucky. As the fouls accumulated, Indiana started to get thinner and thinner. Players became more hesitant to pick up their fouls and Kentucky feasted on that weakness.
With two minutes to go in the game, the Hoosiers had no choice but to start fouling and hope the ‘Cats would miss. Kentucky kept making their free-throws, only missing two of their thirty seven attempts on the night. The lead was always eight to ten points, and Indiana was running out of time. Out of time, and now running out of players. The Hoosier guards of Oladipo and Sheehey fouled out of the contest, trying to keep Kentucky at bay. The ‘Cats proved they had too many offensive weapons for the Hoosiers. As fast as Indiana wanted to play, Kentucky didn’t mind the pace. The Hoosiers could not keep pace with Kentucky’s relentless scoring, and faltered in the end. Darius Miller stepped to the line for the final time and nailed the last two free-throws, making the final score 102-90.
Kentucky had a very impressive team win in this game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was incredible, scoring 24 points, 10 rebounds, and making all ten of his foul shots. Kentucky made 5 of 10 from three-point range, and holding Indiana to 5 of 18. The ‘Cats out-rebounded the Hoosiers by 9, and 14 of those were on the offensive end. Doron Lamb put in another great game, scoring 21 points and making all six of his foul shots. The senior, Darius Miller played another great game. Miller scored 19 points, nailing 2 three-pointers and making all five of his foul shots. Add 14 points from Teague, 12 from Jones, and 3 from Wiltjer. Anthony Davis only had 9 points, but finished with 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. Not bad for a guy who sat for half of the game. The most impressive stat to me, was Kentucky shooting 94% from the free-throw line. The ‘Cats connected on 35 of 37 free throw attempts. Even Eloy Vargas and Twany Beckham played great minutes for the ‘Cats when called upon. Overall, a very good team win.
Now that the ‘Cats have defeated the only other team that gave them a loss during the season, they are seemingly perfect. With Davis’ three blocks, Kentucky breaks the single-season record for blocks. And now they must put forth one of their best games against an athletic and long Baylor squad. Fantastic game to watch, great team win, and a record broken. Just another day in the life of the Big Blue Nation. As always, Go Big Blue!
Filed Under: Basketball
About the Author: Writer for StraitCats.com, lifelong UK fan, college sports enthusiast. Twitter: BrianLewis_SP