Ever since the beginning of last season, I shuddered to think what Kentucky basketball would have looked like had Patrick Patterson chosen Florida over Kentucky, and, honestly, I kind of blocked the thought out of my head. There was no blocking the thought out during UK’s 77-64 loss to Vanderbilt, because that’s exactly what UK would have looked like for the past two years without him.
There’s some talent out on the perimeter and some athleticism underneath, and there would have been games (like Arkansas) where Kentucky’s opponent was either unable or too dumb to take advantage of UK’s complete lack of an interior presences, but, in the end, they would have been exposed.
By no means is Vanderbilt the cream of the SEC, and by no means does Vanderbilt have the kind of beefy interior of the nation’s elite teams, but Kentucky was dominated by that Vanderbilt team, falling to 18-8 on the season and 7-4 in the SEC. Kentucky had no one to throw the ball inside to and remotely expect to score consistently. Kentucky had no one that could defend on the interior without fouling. Kentucky had no one that could be turned to grab a big rebound. For those reasons, UK is not going anywhere (including the NCAA Tournament) unless Patrick Patterson can return and play at a high level.
Kentucky’s lack of strength drove the ‘Cats to foul, and foul a lot. 28 times to be exact. Complaints about extremely close officiating on the perimeter are legitimate, but there were plenty of legitimate fouls inside. Not enough to warrant 40 foul shots (Vandy hit 32), but a lot still.
UK’s chance at having some interior strength disappeared when Josh Harrellson finished playing his 7 first half minutes. Kentucky was left with a pu-pu platter of small lineups “anchored” by Perry Stevenson or AJ Stewart. AJ Stewart showed offensive flashes on his way to 11 points, but he can’t rebound or play a big man one on one. He’s a 3 masquerading as a 4, and, tonight, as a 5.
Perry Stevenson, on the other hand, showed flashes of nothing positive. In the past, he’s played his best games when Patterson has gone down, but tonight he did nothing at all: 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers. Wink pointed out in his breakdown that Stevenson benefits from playing off the ball to get a lot of his 58 blocks so far this season. It was no coincidence that he failed to block a shot for only the fifth time all season.
Most of UK’s perimeter talent I mentioned comes in the form of Jodie Meeks. He certainly worked hard on the offensive end, but fantastic freshman Jeff Taylor dogged him all night, forcing him into 6-21 shooting even though he did manage to score 26 points. Jodie got off shots that looked a lot like the shots he hit against Arkansas on Saturday, but it makes a difference when you have an athletic 6’7 guy following you instead of an athletic 6’3 guy.
Coach Gillispie recognized pretty immediately in the first half that the three guys who were most capable of helping Jodie out on the offensive end and also most capable of helping fight against UK’s lack of bulk were Kevin Galloway, Darius Miller, and DeAndre Liggins. They possess the most athleticism and playmaking ability, but, again, it only showed up in flashes. Also, on a few occasions when the playmaking “flashed”, Perry Stevenson was there to fail to catch a nice pass with his stone hands.
All in all, what a frustrating, disappointing night. We suffered through a UK loss that will almost guarantee that UK will be called a bubble team until the brackets come out, we saw more flaws in this UK team than I would ever care to see, and we saw no new developments in the Billy Gillispie-Jeannine Edwards storyline. I think that the only saving grace was the fact that Brad Nessler uttered the phrase “granny panties” in the last minute of the broadcast. UK has 5 games to strengthen its resume and it’s difficult to predict what we can expect out of Patrick Patterson. He’ll be desperately needed on Saturday, so let’s hope that ankle will be good to go.
Time for the grades:
Turnovers/Point guard play: C- (last game B)
One of those nights where turnovers weren’t terrible (15), but UK never looked like they knew what they wanted to do on offense, and that falls on the point guard (and the coach). Porter was bad when he was in (he only played 15 minutes), DeAndre Liggins tried do too much, and UK was left having Darius Miller bring the ball up the court at the end.
Key Stat-Assist to turnover ratio: 8:15 (7:7 for Liggins, Porter and Galloway) (15:16 last game and 6:6 for Liggins, Porter, and Galloway)
Rebounding: F (last game B+)
No hesitation whatsoever in handing UK their second ‘F’ of the year. I know Vandy is more athletic and bigger than in the past, but you cannot get outrebounded 37-26 by the ‘Dores. The “big guys” (Harrellson, Stevenson, and Stewart) had 5 rebounds between them on the game.
Key Stat-Defensive rebounding percentage (defensive rebounds/opponent FG missed + opponent FT missed x100): (15/23+8)x100=48.4%(last game 70.0%)
Getting the ball to Patterson: NA (last game NA)
Secondary scoring: C (last game B)
AJ Stewart and Kevin Galloway both notched career high scoring nights, but they still only score 11 and 9 points respectively. Darius Miller was the only other guy to score more than 4 points (7), and it looked like he was on his way to a very solid performance before being derailed by 3 first half fouls.
Key Stat-Percentage of points scored by Meeks and Patterson: 26+0/64=40.6% (last game 60.0%)
Those are some ugly grades folks and, unfortunately, they match the game. There is work to do yet and you have to hope the Committee takes Patterson’s absence into account when evaluating this performance.