UK2K. Kentucky 88, Drexel 44. Kentucky jumped on Drexel early. By jumped on, we mean 23-5 to start the game. We mean a 56-20 lead at the half. One of the last buckets scored in the half was a John Wall behind-the-back drive to the hole that got the crowd up and put the gavel down on this one. The second half was an hour-long hernia examination for Drexel, complete with over 20,000 onlookers. John Calipari had pretty much cleared his bench by the 9:00 mark, not wanting to make it any worse for Drexel coach (and friend) Bruiser Flint. DeMarcus Cousins had yet another double-double with 18/13, most of which I think he had in the first six minutes of the game. Patrick Patterson also had 18 for the Wildcats but the story (again) was John Wall, whose 16 points and 7 assists had the crowd — and the TV commentators — mesmerized. The program’s 2,000th win was marked with a short ceremony after the game with Calipari acting as impromptu MC, with appearances by the son of Adolph Rupp, the wife and daughter of the late Bill Keightley (former equipment manager and beloved UK personality), and a short statement by Patrick Patterson, whom the players selected to speak on their behalf. In all honesty, this wasn’t so much a basketball game as it was a formality and then a party for the 2,000th win.
Ridiculous Shot of the Year. Arizona 83, Lipscomb 82 (OT). The Pac-10 narrowly averted another disastrous out-of-conference loss against an average Atlantic Sun team tonight, as Nic Wise (26/3/3 assts/4 stls) hit a three with 0.1 on the clock (where were the Butler-Xavier refs tonight?) to give Sean Miller a skin-of-his-teeth win at home tonight. Upon further review and after seeing the sequence of events in real time, we’re not sure how the officials came to a definitive conclusion that Wise had indeed released the ball before the buzzer and accompanying red light went off. From our angle on the couch with absolutely no pressure on our decision, it looked like he was still touching leather at that moment (State Fans Nation confirms that notion with a great screen-grab that shows the error). Granted, it was a phenomenal shot — more of a push to the basket, actually — and as soon as we can find a video link, we’ll put it up here, but we’re thinking Lipscomb deserved the big upset tonight and may have gotten jobbed in Tucson. Jamelle Horne was out with a foot injury tonight, but Arizona still had a very difficult time with the visting Bisons, especially Lipscomb’s big center Adnan Hodzic, who went for 34/13 against the thinner Wildcat frontline.
Upset of the Night? UTEP 89, Oklahoma 74. Ok, not really, but pickings were slim tonight. OU was only a two-point favorite in Vegas, which doesn’t even account for their quasi-home crowd in OKC. But more importantly, this game illustrated some of the problems that the Sooners have been experiencing in the post-Blake Griffin era. Incumbent star Willie Warren took Coach Jeff Capel’s words to heart (“I’m tired of trying to figure him out.“) and came out to score 18 first half points (26/3/4 assts but 5 TOs for the game), but his team has struggled defensively all season and they could not get stops as the Sooners fell behind 47-30 at the half. The Miners shot 58% from the field and hit ten threes in a game that OU was never able to claw back into, and Warren’s counterpart in orange, Randy Culpepper, had 27/4 assts himself. UTEP’s Derrick Caracter also had another nice game with 11/10 in his fourth game back in uniform. This loss sends Oklahoma into the Xmas break with a ten-day layoff looking back on an 8-4 record with no marquee wins on its resume. Beating Gonzaga in Spokane on NYE appears unlikely, so where will OU find enough wins in the rugged Big 12 this year to ensure another Tourney appearance? Right or not, it will fall on Warren to keep his teammates actively involved on offense by cutting down on turnovers (his 22.4 TO rate is not good) and inspiring a commitment and willingness to play defense — the Sooners have been a top forty team in defensive efficiency the last three seasons under Capel, but this year they rank in the 200s, giving up 48% from the field and 35% from deep so far. That must improve.