Read the UK-Vandy game break-down right here by BBN Basketball Analyst Brett Ayers, aka mikeness30.
It was the worst of halves; it was the best of halves, okay, so I am no Dickens. Actually, you guys are lucky I am no Dickens. This game with Vanderbilt was a story of two Kentucky teams inhabiting the same bodies but changing over at the half. This was, in my mind, a very pivotal game for the Wildcats especially considering the way the have been playing lately. This was a game when more so than at any time I saw Keith Bogans step up and really be a very, very vocal leader. I was very impressed with the way that Cliff Hawkins finally seemed to mesh with his teammates and nice game flow, seemingly sprout up in the second half. Erik Daniels continues to shine and impress with all of the things that he can do. This team can look like a middle-age old man's rec-league team and it can look like at least an elite eight team.
This is now, as it should have always been, but even more so now, Keith Bogan's team. Keith refused to let this team hang its head. He was very vocal in that first half and kept on everyone, as he should have. When I see that I get pumped up. I don't know how a human being can not?! I have played at Vanderbilt, and it is a tough gym to play in from the standpoint of its odd set-up. Alabama can certainly tell you all about how hard it is to play there. All in all, a great, great win for the University of Kentucky.
Offensive Breakdown: Once again, a tale of two very different halves. In the first half the ball was being thrown around without care, guys were driving with only one maybe two passes being made. Shots were being taken under duress and with little concern of score, possession or time on the clocks. It was almost as if Kentucky was still stuck in warm-up mode to me. There was too much of the 1-4 low with Hawkins trying to create off the dribble with everyone just sitting and watching. Lots of stagnant off the ball players on the Kentucky side of the ball offensively in the first half. It was not until two things occurred towards the latter part of the first half that Kentucky actually started to wake up. First thing that gave them some life was they started pressing in their 1-2-2 press. Second thing was that Kentucky when to some actual motion offense in the last four or five minutes, which got guys off the snide and got them moving instead of standing around.
In the second half we say a team re-born as if Jimmy Graham had been the one giving the halftime pep talk. UK came out inspired and really fired up. It was if Kentucky went into the locker room and looked in the mirror at their Jerseys and saw "KENTUCKY" across their chests and said to themselves; "oh yeah, we are Kentucky." The keys to this team winning are very basic, yet they are things that Kentucky will go away from for long stretches sometimes. They need to make more than three passes on in the offense and they need to have consistent and steady post play. That does not mean they have to get scoring in your traditional sense from the posts, but they need to be active on the offensive glass and the ball needs to be able to go inside then come back out.
I was impressed of course with Mr. Bogans but as Estill, Daniels and Fitch go, as goes this teams chances for a very successful season. I was disappointed a bit with Jules' play. He far to often goes soft to the basket when he gets the ball often not finishing plays with dunks like he should. He also is a bit of an enigma on the offensive boards where he should be absolutely tearing it up.
Defensive Breakdown: Here is where the heart and soul of this team lies. When they are being aggressive, especially with that half court press, all aspects of their game goes up two notches. I can not even begin to estimate how many tipped passes Kentucky got in the second half. Fitch, Hawkins and Bogans were all out in the passing lanes getting easy transition buckets. I really hope to continue to see UK stay with the traps and mixing up of its defense. For a large part of that very lethargic first half UK ran a very, very passive 2-3 zone that Vanderbilt simply lit up from long distance. Kentucky has depth and now they need to continue to play both ends of the court like they do by taking all things up two levels intensity wise.
Summation: Well, the funk might well be over. I think this team has so much upside it is scary. I am still waiting for them to come out from the get go. They are very slow starters this year. I think a key to a quick start is getting Estill off that early mark of his.