Three Key Takeaways.
- When Kentucky shoots like that, forget it. The Wildcats shot 48% in the first half and led by 11. They shot 16-25 (that is not a typo, 64%) in the second half. Listen, you don’t need to be some kind of genius to know that when this UK team shoots like that, the only thing you can do is hand them the trophy. If you saw the game, you’d agree that Iowa State didn’t play that badly. They did a super job of battling back on the boards compared to their effort there in the first half. They kept Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a single late bucket. Terrence Jones only managed three scores. Iowa State’s downfall was that the threes just weren’t falling (3-22, 13.6%). Didn’t matter if they were open looks or not; they just didn’t go down. And Kentucky hits 10-20? Simple math.
- Marquis Teague can kill you many ways. He’s quick enough to go by you when he drives to the goal (he showed Scott Christopherson and Bubu Palo that tonight, both very game defenders, and he fouled the latter out in just 11 minutes), but he also noticed that it was his man who was leaving to double the post most of the night. That left him open for jumpers, and he went 10-14 on the night by both hitting open shots as well as driving into the space the ISU defense gave him.
- Did we mention the shooting? One of the compelling things about this shooting display by Kentucky was that so many of the shots were NOT from close range. Iowa state WON the points-in-the-paint battle. The Wildcats shot that percentage by hitting a lot of jump shots. Yeesh.
Star of the Game. Tough call here between Teague (24/7 assists on 10-14 shooting) and Darius Miller (19/6 boards on 7-11). Teague was brilliant at taking what the defense gave him while still finding a way to get his teammates involved with seven dimes, but it was Miller who hit some extremely tough shots (and a couple of threes) that keyed the late first-half run that helped UK put some space between themselves and the Cyclones.
Sights & Sounds. In the post-game press conference, ISU head coach Fred Hoiberg said, “We’re going to leave Lexington…I mean, [resigned laugh] Louisville with our heads held high.” It was an HONEST mistake. This undoubtedly felt like Rupp Arena, given the blue-clad fans who packed the KFC Yum! Center. There were a few times early in both halves where Kentucky needed an emotional lift. The crowd helped provide it.
Quotable. Asked about playing Indiana and good friend Tom Crean in the Sweet 16, Calipari noted, “I don’t like playing friends. When they win, I’m sick about it. When I win, I enjoy it for a bit, but then I don’t, because I know what they’re going through.” He then added, “And I know he’s gonna watch every single piece of film anyone has on us, so [looking into TV cameras] Tommy, if you’re watching, I’m putting in two new out-of-bounds plays, some new side-outs, and two new offenses.”
What’s Next? A rematch between two of the seminal programs of our sport. A rematch between friends, Crean and Calipari. A rematch between an overall #1-seed who is rolling, and one of the two teams to draw blood from them this season. Indiana versus Kentucky in the second week of the Tournament. We can’t wait.