Kentucky basketball: Cats welcome Big Z in victory over Georgia

Cats get extra boost from new addition.

Georgia v Kentucky
Georgia v Kentucky / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

The legend of Zvonimir Ivisic, aka Big Z, added another chapter to Kentucky’s home victory against Georgia. Big Z broke the news to BBN around 1:30 pm EST announcing on social media that the NCAA academically cleared him and will be eligible to play in the game. Big Z checked into the game during the under 16:00-minute media timeout. He only played 16 minutes, but for most Kentucky fans, this game will forever be remembered as the “Big Z” game.

Debut by the numbers

Big Z passed the eyeball test with flying colors. The stat sheet is further evidence. Kentucky fans witnessed an out-of-this-world debut that will be etched in lure for generations. Ivisic splashed in his first four shot attempts in the first half, netting three 3’s and one deep 2-pointer. He created one of the best non-alley-oop assists you’ll ever see by sending a behind-the-back pass to a wide-open Antonio Reeves for a wing 3-pointer. Big Z racked up 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 2 assists, 1 dunk, 1 technical foul, and 1 flagrant foul. Legendary.

Big time win

The Wildcats team as a whole managed to put up ridiculous numbers. Kentucky gave the Bulldogs their most lopsided loss of the season. Georgia’s defense gave up the most points (106), the most 3-pointers (14), and the best offensive shooting percentage (62%) in any game this season. Although the final deficit was only 9 points, the Wildcats led for 85% of the game by an average margin of 13.3 points. This ranks as the 3rd best average margin of victory for Kentucky and the best against any of the Power 6 teams they have faced. The other two games were against Stonehill and Marshall. Oh, and Kentucky added to their NCAA-leading offensive scoring and are now averaging a whopping 91.6 points per game. 

Defense remains concerning

Saturday’s first 30 minutes were about as fun as a fan could have. Unfortunately, the final 10 minutes will leave a sour taste for some of BBN. Georgia kept attacking the paint and scored on several, easy layups and dunks. Our defense refused to stop Abdur-Rahim on his way to a career-high 34 points. Abdur-Rahim had only scored more than 20 points four times in 89 career games and only twice this season before Saturday’s chaos. Coach Calipari mentioned it in his postgame interviews that he acknowledges opponents will watch the final 10 minutes of that game and scheme ways to score points on his defense. 

Looking ahead

Kentucky is in the midst of a tough stretch of Wednesday-Saturday-Tuesday conference games. Tuesday’s matchup against South Carolina will feature another veteran team that has stacked up a lot of wins and will not be intimidated by the Wildcats. South Carolina ranks as one of the most deliberate teams in the country. Their current offensive pace is ranked 347 out of 362 NCAA Division 1 teams. They protect the ball, milk the shot clock, and force opponents to guard everything. The Gamecocks are coming off of one of their most efficient all-around games of the season in their victory against Arkansas. Coach Paris will have his team focused on stopping the Wildcats' offense and will expect the home crowd in Columbia will cause mayhem.