Did I mention that Kentucky plays  defense as well?
 
 
 

 

Watching  DeMarcus Cousins control the paint can be intimidating. Throughout the season, Cornell’s 7-foot center Jeff Foote could get the ball in the post and then see if he could score. Thursday that didn’t happen after the first few possessions.

“(Cousins) doesn’t look like he’s that flexible but he is,’’ Donahue said. “He’s way more impressive in person as an athlete. He doesn’t look like he can move quick but he can. He’s got good hands and a sense on how to play. He could probably play harder for longer. But he does everything else. He’s incredible.’’

UK Monster Man

What has been somewhat lost is just how dismantling the Wildcats’ defense has become this season. But during a 62-45 win against Cornell on Thursday night at the Carrier Dome, you couldn’t help but notice UK’s defense for a 15-minute stretch that was as stifling as any team has put on another at this level.

“It was the best defense we’ve played all year,’’ said Patterson. “It was a total team effort. Coach Cal told us to shut down the 3-pointer shooters and make them take tough twos. We had to get our hands up every time they shot the ball.’’

Donahue was miffed at how easily the Big Red were able to execute their offense in wins over Temple and Wisconsin in the first two rounds of this tournament. Against the Cats, Cornell couldn’t do much for that 15-minute stretch that signified the end of the game, even if the Big Red did cut the lead to six at one point late. The message was clear for that stretch that Kentucky could change the outcome by tightening its defense

It was team defense,’’ Calipari said. “Our five-man helped. Our four-man helped. We made them take tough shots. It takes discipline and early our young guys didn’t have that. We’re 37 games in now.’’

Darius Miller said Kentucky hadn’t figured out how to defend early in the season. Teams were knocking down 3s and “breaking records on us. We’ve come a long way.’’

Bottom Line

Calipari doesn’t get the credit of being a defensive-minded coach. But he has made the Wildcats defend. Why do you think Kentucky looks so fantastic on the break? It’s because the Wildcats are forcing turnovers.

Kentucky has been perceived at times as having plenty of flash and not enough substance. That’s not what last night’s road game at Syracuse made clear. The Wildcats defend as well as any team in the country when they apply themselves. Teams like Butler get credit for the low field-goal percentages and scores. But UK needs to get credit for how tough it defends. Cornell couldn’t figure it out.

And if Kentucky is locked in defensively for three more games, no one else will be able to either. Go big bad Blue!

Source: Blog of Andy Katz

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