Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Final thoughts from Ole Miss-Kentucky
By Pat Forde
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Quick reactions from Kentucky's 85-75 victory over Mississippi in Rupp Arena:
John Wall passed, shot, drove, defended -- and smiled. The freshman point guard, who said Saturday he wasn't having much fun lately, looked like his normal self against the Rebels. With Ole Miss unafraid to play a full-court game that suits Wall's strengths, he fluidly flew around Rupp while producing 17 points and seven assists.
"I'm happy again," Wall declared. "It feels good, hopefully (the mini-controversy) will go away now."
Wall said the lesson learned from the past couple days of dithering about his comments was "just keep your mouth shut." But he also acknowledged he was trying too hard to live up to his considerable hype.
Coach John Calipari loved what he saw out of Wall Tuesday night.
"John Wall ran our team as well as he has all year," Calipari said.
The Rebels went with conventional wisdom and zoned the Wildcats, figuring the only way to test them offensively was to clog the lane and challenge John Calipari's crew to make 3-pointers.
Challenge answered. Kentucky made 9 of 19 3s.
The past two games have showcased a developing weapon for Kentucky, shooting guard Darnell Dodson. With emphasis on shooting. Against Vanderbilt, Dodson got his first start since the season opener and responded with 16 points, hitting 4 of 8 3s. He started again tonight and was 4 of 5 from 3-point range, scoring 14 points in 16 minutes of playing time.
If Dodson keeps shooting this way, the junior college transfer will be the antidote to the zone strategy.
"Big," was Calipari's description of Dodson's contribution.
Junior Patrick Patterson was the only starter who predates Calipari. He had some nice contributions, including a couple of excellent defensive possessions, but his offensive output continues to decline as the newcomers assert themselves. Patterson had 12 points and six rebounds. His scoring average has decreased six straight games (from 16.7 to 15.1) and his rebounding average has decreased five straight (from 8.1 to 7.6).
Calipari praised Patterson but is still seeking more assertiveness from his most veteran player.
"He's still not there yet," Calipari said. "You'll see it in another week to 10 days, two weeks, and you'll say, 'This is him.'
"He helped himself today, but let me say this: He's still 30 percent better than he played today."
Cousins continues to amaze. He swallowed up seven rebounds in the first six minutes and 15 seconds, and finished with his 13th double-double of the season (18 points and 13 rebounds). And although the freshman was slow getting back on defense several times, he also stepped in and took three charges. If he's not blocking your shot, he's stopping your drive with his body.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was asked to compare Cousins to someone from his playing days and came up with Chris Washburn -- a great college talent at North Carolina State.
Despite all the impressive performances and spectacular plays, Kentucky played another ebb-and-flow game. The Wildcats hit Ole Miss with a 12-2 run to start -- then relaxed. The next run was 15-0 -- then the Cats relaxed and Ole Miss crept back within three. Kentucky led by 18 in the first half and 17 in the second half but never threw the knockout punch. That's been a recurring theme this season for this young, 21-1 team but it hasn't derailed anything yet.
Mississippi sophomore Terrico White showed off a bit for the two-dozen NBA scouts in attendance, scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds. But he was shut out in the last 14 minutes.