Kentucky Wildcats basketball season outlook blurry after injury to Nerlens Noel

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February 12, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) drives to the basket as Florida Gators guard/forward Casey Prather (24) defends during the first half at the Stephen C. O

Back to the actual game, it was a game in which John Calipari said, Kentucky may have been exposed. The Wildcats guard play obviously did not stack up to Florida’s early and Florida attacked early and often defensively, forcing turnover after turnover. On several plays, Florida simply took the ball away from UK, but Kentucky had its share of unforced errors. Kentucky had 17 turnovers against just 11 assists and almost every single Kentucky guard had their ugly moments and could be blamed.

Ryan Harrow had a horrendous game and spent half of the game on the bench, despite just having one foul.  Last night, any option was better than Harrow leading this team.  Harrow had zero points and although the official stat sheet showed just two turnovers, a lot of Harrows passes ended up resulting in turnovers regardless. On a couple of instances, I watched him lead the team down the court and his eyes were focused on one particular player and he made the pass, regardless of what else may have opened on the floor. In football, it is never a good thing when your QB locks in on his primary target and forces the pass, oblivious to who else may be open. Ryan Harrow did this all night long.

The frustration of the team on the floor level was apparent. On one play, Jarrod Polson had eyes just for Kyle Wiltjer on a down the court pass, Wiltjer was heavily covered but Polson made the pass but tried to overcompensate for the defender. The ball sailed out-of-bounds almost five feet from the arms of Wiltjer. On the other side of the court, Archie Goodwin was open. As the teams headed to their timeout, Goodwin threw his arms in the air and scream “What>?” at Polson.

Goodwin was not immune to the bad play. He had four turnovers and four fouls and went 4-9 from the field. If you want to point blame, the list goes on and one. Alex Poythress was non-existent for his 29 minutes on the court, going 1-9 from the field and contributing three turnovers. On more than one occasion, I watched Poythress get the ball right in front of me, seem to want to go up strong and dunk it, but instead threw up a weak layup that bounced off the rim.

And the body language of this team was horrible. That type of thing generally does not show up as much on TV, but live at the game, you can study the body language during timeouts and aside for maybe Noel and Polson, the team seemed genuinely disinterested in the game.

 

February 12, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) drives to the basket as Florida Gators center Patric Young (4) defend during the first half at the Stephen C. O

The big question now is “What’s next?”. Hopefully we will get news of Noel’s injury today, maybe even in a few hours. Some people seemed to think that it may not be as serious as it looked as, but it’s hard to say at this point. Regardless, it’s time for Willie Cauley-Stein to get his moment to lead this team. I like Willie Cauley-Stein a lot and he has shown glimpses of great potential at times. Also, last night, he showed great moments of indecision and showed that he is still a bit green basketball wise.

Against Patric Young, Cauley-Stein was dominated at times. Even though he had the height advantage, Cauley-Stein does not have the bulk to push someone like Young around and a few times, Willie was like a battering ram, trying to push Young around, but bouncing off him in vain. Regardless, it is time for him to step up and for the rest of the team as well.

As of now, Kentucky is 17-7 and almost assured of a ten loss season when all is said and done.   They are still at the moment, a NCAA team, but another bad loss to a SEC member not named Florida or Missouri will surely push them onto the bubble. Kentucky has a rough game on Saturday, on the road at Tennessee. The Vols took Kentucky to the limit at Rupp and it is unlikely that Noel will play (just a hunch).

In the press conference, both Wiltjer and Mays talked about how Nerlens was their brother. And for the most part, I don’t have a lot of problem with how those two have played this season. But it was obvious that Nerlens Noel was the heart and hustle of this Wildcat team and if he is out, that needs to be replaced. And Mays, Wiltjer, Polson, and even Cauley Stein are up to the task of carrying their load and then some.

But the rest of the team HAS to step up as well and embrace Noel’s work ethic and heart. This team can not go another game without Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, and Alex Poythress stepping up and carrying their share of this team. All have been spectacular at times, but horribly inconsistent from night to night. And we know they are better than that.

I watched a Florida team play their heart out last night and totally dominate Kentucky. And let’s not forget that Florida recently lost their best defensive player and their heart, Will Yeguete, to a season ending injury. We all hope and pray that Nerlens Noel does not suffer the same fate, but regardless, this team needs to regroup and respond the same as Florida did after losing their heart.

Someone has to step up, Who is it going to be?

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