The strange saga that is the Kentucky 2010-2011 basketball season held sway once again at Rupp Arena Saturday.
It’s hard to say why, but these Cats just play on a completely different level at home. And no one more so than Darius Miller.
The native Kentuckian set a career high for the second consecutive Saturday, scoring 24 and showing all around hustle and a confidence that has been elusive for much of his career. As a team, Kentucky played an efficient and unselfish all-around game, and sent the Florida Gators packing with a 76-68 win.
In addition to Miller’s strong performance, UK had another impressive offensive showing, shooting over 50% from the floor in keeping Coach Calipari undefeated inside the friendly confines of Rupp. In fact, the victory was Cal’s 500th all time.
Here are some other observations from today’s big win:
Harrellson and hustle
Josh Harrellson is a beast on the boards. Kentucky will go only as far as Harrelson’s body will let them. It’s impossible to overstate the value of his offensive rebounding. His hustle and emotion are contagious on the court and seemed to rub off a bit on the rest of the team in front of the friendly Rupp crowd.
Loss of focus
The Cats showed once again their youth in the waning minutes, losing concentration several times inside the game’s final TV timeout. Silly fouls, a shot-clock violation and inability to get good shots once again plagued Kentucky late. Fortunately, UK’s double digit lead gave them enough padding for it to not matter. Inexperienced ball handlers and poor free-throw shooting reared their ugly heads again, and will be something to keep an eye on down the stretch.
Unbeknownst to many and despite its relatively thin frontcourt, UK is third in the nation in blocked shots. Last season, they also finished in the top five. Against Florida, they had 7 big blocks. This is a trend of Cal’s UK squads we really hope continues throughout March.
Florida a tough out
This was a huge win for seeding purposes. Florida was a top 4 seed in ESPN’s most recent Joe Lunardi bracketology analysis. And they deserve it. The Gators have good size inside and possess deadeye shooters in Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons. Parsons in particular is a versatile weapon, who we think will enjoy a lengthy pro career. The Cats had to earn it Saturday.
The SEC at a glance
So now UK is 8-6 in conference. They get Vandy at home this week before another tough road trip to Tennessee next weekend. We’ll be conservative and predict a split, bringing UK to 21-9 overall, 9-7 in league play. Unfortunately, such a finish would mean that the Cats will play on the opening Thursday of the SEC tourney. While that might bode well for ticket sales in Atlanta, it will definitely pose a big challenge to a tired Kentucky ball club, which would need to win four consecutive games in Catlanta to pull off another conference tourney title.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Bring on March.go back