Kentucky’s Improbable Journey Rolls On: Three TakeawaysPosted by Bennet Hayes on April 6th, 2014
The cardiac ‘Cats did it again. Aaron Harrison continued to make the late-game extraordinary look routine and Kentucky’s unlikely NCAA Tournament run lived to see yet another day. The only thing now standing between the Wildcats and the program’s ninth National Championship is UConn on Monday night, but the #8 seeded Wildcats will be a favorite to knock off the Huskies and complete the six-game sweep. With an eye towards Monday night, here are three quick takeaways from Kentucky’s semifinal victory over Wisconsin.
- James Young was aggressive and effective attacking the basket. Young is far from a one-dimensional player, but with more three-point attempts than two-point attempts to his name this season, there have been times when the freshman’s role has been reduced to that of a jump shooter, almost exclusively. This was not the case against the Badgers. Young scored a game-high 17 points, and only three were earned from behind the arc. Nine of his 11 field goal attempts came from two-point range, and Young showed off a more varied offensive game in getting into the lane often and to the free throw stripe almost as frequently (he went 6-of-7 on free throws). His floor-stretching ability will again be crucial on Monday night, but a Young capable of manufacturing points in different ways is a scary proposition moving forward.
- Alex Poythress may never be the player everyone hoped he would be when he arrived in Lexington, but he has become a key role player on this team. Poythress played 29 minutes last night, had eight points (4-of-4 FG) and seven rebounds, and even did a nice job defending Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky when called upon. His offensive game is still unrefined, but as an athletic energy guy off the bench who can guard almost every position, Poythress has real value for the Willie Cauley-Stein-less ‘Cats. Expect another heavy dose of the sophomore on Monday night, as he would appear to be a perfect defensive match-up for UConn’s DeAndre Daniels.
- Can Kentucky beat UConn without making three-pointers? The Wildcats made only two on Saturday (you might recall one fairly significant make) and attempted just five; UConn defends extremely well inside the arc (42.2% 2FG defense, eighth in the country), but is slightly less stingy in their defending from beyond it (90th nationally in 3FG defense). Kevin Ollie will surely hope to take away Julius Randle and test those Kentucky outside shooters, so expect the ‘Cats, whether they like it or not, to fire up a few more long-range attempts on Monday night. If they shoot the ball as poorly as they did for most of the regular season, taking down UConn could prove tricky. But if Young and the Harrison twins again hold the hot hands they have carried with them all Tournament long, Kentucky could, quite fittingly, earn the National Championship through their work beyond the three-point line.