Tennessee - Kentucky Postgame: Guardian of the Meadows

Kentucky
Tennessee
60
Points
63
21/46 - 46%
Field Goals
22/54 - 41%
6/15 - 40%
3-Point FGs
3/12 - 25%
12/19 - 63%
Free Throws
16/22 - 73%
33 (10/23)
Rebounds (Off-Def)
31 (13/18)
19
Total Fouls
16
4
Steals
5
4
Blocks
5
14
Assists
13
17
Turnovers
10
14 / 17
Assist/Turnover
13 / 10
13
Bench Points
10

Whew! Was it just me, or did that game feel about like this?


Boy, did Kentucky ever milk the clock!


After the 20-5 opening run, it seemed as if the Patterson injury (btw, did you hear about it?) might have taken Kentucky completely out of the game. Boy, was that initial feeling ever wrong. Once Kentucky started getting a feel for playing without the freshman, they really becaem cohesive as a team. The early miscues and turnovers dropped off dramatically. In the second half, Kentucky went into clock-kill mode almost immediately. Averaging oh, about 34.8 seconds per possession in the second half, the UK offense cut the number of possessions in the game down to 61 per side - a much slower pace than UT would like to have.

That's not to say that UT didn't exert their will. At times, the high-flying circus act would pop out, usually to UT's benefit on the scoreboard. The Vols played a very, very hard game. (Blocks like Tyler Smith's don't happen when you play on cruise control.) Fortunately for the average fan, Kentucky played a very, very hard game as well. In the land of oddities, the two teams traded places on a lot of stats. Kentucky went to the 3-ball quite often, and had tremendous success. They also out-assisted UT, albeit not by much. Those two stats alone suggest that the compensation for not having Patterson (was he injured or something?) was to play a more teamwork-oriented perimeter game. They didn't have that nice post target to hit, and many of their players stepped up nicely.

Lofton made only one three in the game to bring himself into a tie for fourth all-time. While his final tally is not yet decided, it's probably safe to guess he won't get #1 on the list. (Come on, L, make me eat my words!) A part of that is the quality of competition the team has faced - Memphis, Vandy, and UK (even without Patterson) have enough talent on D to blanket Lofton and force the game into the hands of the other players. The bright side is that the team has responded to the defenses they've faced and mostly compensated for the loss of Lofton's 3-ball. We'll see how this plays out in the tournament, when UT faces teams that don't see them every year, but the race seems to be more for #2 on the list than #1. That's fine; he's a great player for the Vols and he'll have his place in UT legend. (Besides, it's fun listening to UK fans debate whether they should have recruited him or not - a real exercise in conflict.)

Looking forward: the next game is a roadie to Florida on Wednesday. That effectively means that UT will play their four main rivals (Memphis sorta, Vandy, Kentucky, and Florida) in a row. Many of those are prime-time, high-hype games that can really drain a team's energy. So far, the team has responded well, with only the almost-but-not-quite in Vandy's Hall of Mirrors Arena as a blemish. Consider this the proving grounds for the team. They've responded very well, and the Florida game will give them one more challenge as UF tries to nail down a tourney spot for themselves. With the Texas loss this week, UT should hold onto a #1 seed on Monday - likely a #4 overall. That might be a good thing, though. If UNC gets their preffered venue, they'll be in Raleigh. If the NCAA can justify doing it, they'll put Duke in Raleigh with UNC to try to set up the #1-#2 matchup of many dollar signs. That would put UT in a bracket without having to worry about any annoying ACC teams and their fans. (Ok, it matters to me, even if it doesn't really matter to the team.)

I'm sure I've missed a lot, though. Please add comments to fill in the gaps.

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