By: Tyrus York – A slow first half against Mississippi State and an overall slow game against Vanderbilt may have some Kentucky basketball fans wondering when or if this team is going to “put it all together” and start beating teams the way they think they should.
My answer to those fans is very simple. Relax.
We are still witnessing what could be the greatest collection of talent to ever be assembled on one team in college basketball. The problem still is, as we knew it would be that they are very young and in need of growing up before one could expect consistent results.
One of those young players, and maybe the best Julius Randle, heralded by many as the highest draft prospect on this loaded team, has yet to score in double digits in his two SEC games. Having to deal with bigger, more physical players game in and game out appears to have slowed Randle down, at least offensively for now.
Despite the fact he’s not scoring like he once was Randle is still a rebounding machine. Grabbing 11 rebounds against a very undermanned Vandy team was a bright spot, but he’s going to have to find different ways to score.
Coach John Calipari stated several times early in the season that Randle needs to be a 20 points per game guy. We’ve not seen that in some time, but if you add the extra points needed for Randle to have 20 in the last few games, those games officially become blowouts.
Vanderbilt did something to the Cats Saturday that many teams have done and more will continue to do. They simply packed the paint making it difficult for Kentucky post players to operate with the ball. They also did a great job of taking away the Kentucky guards’ ability to drive the basketball.
In a nutshell, the Commodores dared Kentucky to kick it out and hit a jump shot. The plan nearly worked as Kentucky was only 6-22 from beyond the 3 point line. Not a terrible stat but certainly one not good enough to beat a higher quality opponent.
Vanderbilt managed only 6-20 from the 3 point line themselves, giving Kentucky the advantage to do what they do best which is rebounding and second chance points.
As Kentucky continues SEC play, rebounding will be the key to their success. Until their offense is more efficient, they will need to rely on defensive stops and second chance points from offensive rebounds.
As Andrew Harrison improves, so will the offense. One positive sign we saw from Harrison in the Vandy game were his 4 assists to 0 turnovers. For a freshman point guard playing in Memorial Gym for the first time, that may be one of the most impressive stats of the season so far.
When Andrew becomes more confident running this team, which is inevitable in my opinion, Kentucky will be primed for a run in March. In the meantime, take the games for what they are, the youngest team in college basketball competing in a difficult conference, especially on the road.
The young Cats will be put to the test on the road again this week as they travel to the always difficult Bud Walton Arena to face Arkansas Tuesday at 9 pm.