Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Wildcats, Zags make statement
By C.L. Brown
They called him Goldieblocks.
Well, at least some folks on social media created the impromptu and fitting nickname for Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein against Boise State. The 7-foot center debuted his newly dyed blonde hair cut in the shape of a “Bobby Brown” style from the '80s, blocking nine shots during the Wildcats’ 70-55 win.
Cauley-Stein, who tied his career high for blocks, led a defensive effort for the No. 11 Wildcats that was night-and-day better than their performance in Friday’s loss to Baylor.
The Broncos (8-1) ranked second in the NCAA in scoring with a 91.9 points per game average coming in. Prior to the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari said they ran the dribble-drive offense better than many of his teams in the past.
Boise State kept on attacking the lane, but Cauley-Stein’s versatility and quickness eliminated many advantages it gained from penetration. He could guard on switches from the perimeter on in, which is how he got to so many shots.
It wasn't just the early-1990s Bobby Brown hairdo that dazzled for Willie Cauley-Stein, who blocked nine shots in Kentucky's victory over Boise State.
It was a bit of a relief for the young Cats, who surely wanted to avoid a two-game losing streak with games against No. 18 North Carolina and No. 6 Louisville looming in two of their next three games.
As much as Calipari used the Baylor loss as motivation, he could use the Boise win as a building block. The Broncos returned all of their starters from last season and are poised to be an NCAA tournament team.
The Broncos played a de-facto zone defense the way they sagged so much in their man-to-man. That look caused the Wildcats major problems against Baylor, but UK guard James Young helped loosen up the lane with his perimeter shooting in the first half.
Young scored 14 of the Cats' first 28 points and finished with a game-high 21 points. More importantly for UK, he added nine rebounds.
Rebounding was just one of UK's shortcomings against Baylor that was corrected at home against the Broncos. Julius Randle, who scored 17 points, led the way with 11 boards as Kentucky held a plus-16 rebounding advantage. The Bears beat UK, who was without forward Marcus Lee due to a stomach illness, on the boards by 15.
Boise got its leading scorer Anthony Drmic back into the lineup after he missed last week’s game with an undisclosed illness. Drmic scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the first half, but was held to just 1-of-8 shooting after halftime.
Boise shot just 8-of-35 in the second half en route to its first loss of the season.
UK left with some positives defensively, but its ballhandling is still cause for concern. The Cats had 19 turnovers, which helped the Broncos outscore them 18-7 in points off turnovers.
UK also had just seven assists on its 27 made field goals, which suggests it’s still relying on individual talent to score.
Nevertheless, a win against an experienced team will bode well for the Wildcats, just like a win on the road will help springboard Gonzaga.
The No. 20 Bulldogs looked to be headed to a loss in Appalachia against West Virginia. Tuesday was the Bulldogs' only true road game during their nonconference schedule, and they faced every bit of adversity before pulling out an 80-76 win.
West Virginia, like Kentucky, lost both of its marquee games entering tonight and needed a win to build some confidence. Guard Eron Harris lit up the Zags with 18 points in the first half.
Unlike their losses to Wisconsin and Missouri, in which they fell behind big early, all was going well at home for the Mountaineers against Gonzaga as they ran out to a 10-point second-half lead. When the Bulldogs had a spurt, Terry Henderson seemed to suppress it when he converted a four-point play with 8:16 left.
That’s when the Zags, not known for being defensive stoppers, clamped down.
Harris couldn’t find the same open shots he had during his hot start. He made just 2-of-5 attempts in the second half, including one 3-pointer after nailing four in the first half.
The Mountaineers shot just 37 percent, which marked just the third game this season the Bulldogs held a team to less than 40 percent shooting. That allowed them to hold West Virginia without a field goal for a seven-minute stretch and regain the lead.
Kevin Pangos, who had 18 points, hit three straight 3-pointers during a 13-0 run that gave the Zags the lead for good at 74-66 with 2:18 left.
While Pangos finished the Mountaineers off from the outside, it was the inside play of center Przemek Karnowski that powered Gonzaga throughout the game. Karnowski played perhaps his best game of the season, recording a season-high 19 points and a career-high-tying 13 rebounds.