Going into the 2013-14 there are plenty of questions to be answered for this year’s Kentucky team. One of those questions is whether or not this team will gel together and come out of their shell in time for the looming Michigan State game this upcoming Tuesday. However, the first half didn’t give Kentucky fans much comfort as the Cats caught fire late in the half and shot the ball very poorly. In fact, the Cats were only up by 10 going into the locker room.
However, for the first half, there were a few positive takeaways such as the phenomenal defensive presence that was brought by the likes of Willie Cauley-Stein and Aaron Harrison. Both Cauley-Stein and Aaron Harrison had superb awareness of were the ball was and constantly had a hand on the ball or were coming away with steals and blocked shots. Not to mention that Cauley-Stein helped create key plays with assist after assist.
Most notably for Cauley-Stein in the first half was his assist to Alex Poythress for a dunk by Poythress. Then afterwards, Cauley-Stein stole the ball to feed another assist to James Young to give Young the wide-open three-point basket. This is what we can come to expect from this Kentucky team as the season progresses, plenty of steals, dunks and three-point baskets.
Another positive from tonight’s game in general is the fact that Andrew Harrison started tonight. Andrew Harrison will be a vital part to Kentucky having success this season. The faster he can get into his rhythm as a effective point guard and learns to share the ball more often, the faster Kentucky will become more dominate. Andrew Harrison has the potential to be one of the best point guards in the nation, as long as he buys into what Coach Cal is telling him in practice and on the court.
As for the second half of the game, it was impressive to say the least. If anything was proven tonight, it was that Julius Randle is a beast. Randle can basically score wherever he wants to. He was constantly spinning to the basket with lay-ins, grabbing key rebounds, lighting up the scoreboard left and right, and even creating assists.
It wasn’t all Randle however, we also saw Cauley-Stein and Aaron and Andrew Harrison step up their game. But, Marcus Lee came in the game with authority. Lee took the team on his shoulders along with Randle and helped his team extend the lead to put away UNC-Asheville by creating turnovers and even getting a few signature dunks in along the way.
James Young and Alex Poythress had some impressive moments as well. James Young especially, he was flying around everywhere on the court, hitting three after three, and even throwing down a few slams. Poythress, however, started off sloppy, but quickly overcame his sluggish start after receiving an assist from Cauley-Stein for a monster dunk.
During the second half, Poythress showed glimpses of the player that he can be this season. If Poythress can bring a strong defensive presence, block shots, create assists and score effectively, then he can help make this Kentucky team very scary. In fact, this was one this the things Cauley-Stein was talking about after the Montevallo game on Monday. Cauley-Stein said that if everyone contributes and works together as one unit, then this team will be “scary.”
Next question to be answered is when will this team be “good?” Coach Cal mentioned after the Montevallo game that “we are not a good team yet.” It easy to see why Coach Cal is saying that because of the way the Cats played during the first half. But, after what was displayed during the second half shows what this Kentucky team can be, and that’s a very good Kentucky team. By the end of the season, there’s no telling how spectacular this team can be. But, for now, the question will be how that the Cats will fare against the Spartans of Michigan State on Tuesday.
We will see the Cats in action again on Sunday at 4:00 PM EST against the Northern Kentucky Norse. The game will televised on the Fox Sports South network and tape-delayed on the CW network at 6:00 PM EST.