A Little Magic in Rupp Tonight
The Rematch. Kentucky 82, South Carolina 61. In the locker room before the game, John Calipari told his team, “Guys, before we start, here, I got a recruit here we want to talk to, so make sure you introduce yourself to the recruit.” A moment later, into the locker room walked…Earvin “Magic” Johnson. And honestly, that was about the only unexpected thing that happened this evening at Rupp Arena. To be sure, this looked pretty similar to the South Carolina squad that has ownership of the only bruise on Kentucky’s record; not much has changed. Devan Downey went nuts (26 points on 9-25), and that’s about the whole story for the Gamecocks. This was a different Kentucky team, though, especially when it came to defense and glasswork, and the biggest change was seen in Patrick Patterson. Ticked off after his five point performance in the first game against South Carolina, Patterson blew up for a season-high 23 points on 10-12 shooting, swatted four shots, and yanked down eight boards on this night. South Carolina won the rebounding war in the teams’ first meeting 40-38, and even beat Kentucky on the offensive glass a month ago, 16-13. Tonight, Patterson — whom sophomore Darius Miller called the “unquestioned leader of this team,” in case there was any doubt — along with Miller (7/8) and DeMarcus Cousins (19/11, his 17th double-double), were having none of that. Kentucky owned the glass on both ends, outworking the Gamecocks 44-26 overall and 14-8 on the offensive side. South Carolina had a short 7-0 run in the middle of the second half to cut the Wildcat lead to six, but didn’t really test the Wildcats after that. It’ll be interesting to watch Kentucky in their next one. The postgame interviews tonight didn’t end until around midnight, and Kentucky now travels to Knoxville on Saturday to take on Tennessee in a game that starts at noon — that’s right, a mere 36 hours. Calipari noted how this is “the doldrums, the dog days of the season. We and a lot of other teams are all wanting to get on with it…let’s get on with that other tournament, and I’m not talking about the one in Nashville (the SEC),” and, because of that, revealed some trepidation about the Tennessee game, adding, “They played Tuesday. I think they’re there, just waiting on us.” Magic’s message to the UK team, by the way, was simply to tell them (according to Calipari), “You’re a defensive team. I love it, the way you guys guard, and I love watching you play. Keep rebounding and defending the way that you are now, and stick together.” Looks like the Wildcats got the message.
#20 Vanderbilt 96, Georgia 94 (OT). Vandy survived the post-Kentucky hangover by coming back against the very pesky Georgia Bulldogs tonight in a game they probably should have lost. With 33 seconds left, the Commodores were down five points when Andre Walker nailed a big three to bring his team back within two. After two missed FTs by Georgia’s Dustin Ware, AJ Ogilvy got a key tip-in to send the game to overtime and give Vandy new life. In overtime, the Dores were able to build a small margin, but Georgia still had a chance to tie waved off when a missed FT led to a heave/tip-in that came after the buzzer. Regardless, Vandy stayed one game up on Florida for the second seed in the SEC East and the all-important first round bye in the SEC Tournament. Jermaine Beal was awesome with 28/7 assts and Ogilvy added 16/11 in the winning effort. Vanderbilt is a team that is still slightly under the national radar but they can cause serious trouble for teams in the NCAA Tournament with the right matchups.
Other Games of National Interest.
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