Tuesday, November 23, 2010

9th ranked Kentucky Wildcats win grudge match over 11th Washington Huskies 74-67

By Kshell

In game that had an NCAA Tournament feel to it due to the bad blood over the Terrence Jones recruitment saw #9 Kentucky Wildcats(4-0) defeat the #11 Washington Huskies(3-1) 74-67 in a back and forth game. This game was a rough game with plenty of tension on both sides but at the end of the day the Wildcats rebounding was to much for the Huskies out rebounding the Huskies 45-32 including 17 offensive rebounds. The Huskies three point shooting which has been hot all season long was missing today shooting just three for 17(17.6%) on the game. Take away Darnell Gant who had hit just one three pointer in his entire career before today the Huskies were one for 15(6.6%). Freshman Brandon Knight proved to be to much for the Huskies scoring 24 points on 10 for 17 shooting. The Huskies must regroup in time for tomorrow's third place game against #2 Michigan State. The Huskies will be kicking themselves tonight knowing they let a winnable game slip through their hands.

The Huskies ran into a buzz saw right off the bat after being up 6-2 the Wildcats went on a 18-0 run that seemed to last a lifetime. The Wildcats early on were looking like they were going to win in a blowout as they were up 20-6 and with Knight scoring nine points. That is when Lorenzo Romar pulled Matthew Bryan-Amaning for red shirt sophomore transfer Aziz N'Diaye who sparked a run without scoring a single bucket. N'Diaye changed the game by blocking shots in the paint which led to quick Washington scores. N'Diaye was also grabbing rebounds and along with Darnell Gant hitting two three pointers the Huskies had pulled within 23-22. The Huskies in fact led at halftime 35-34 after trailing by 14 points. At halftime Gant who had scored a career high with 10 points was the Huskies leading scorer. Isaiah Thomas was just one for six and Matthew Bryan-Amaning was just two for eight shooting at halftime. The second half would provide the same story as the Wildcats would pull away.

In the second half the Huskies could never find that three point shot. The Huskies would only hit one three pointer in the second half. The Huskies also couldn't get anything from their two best players Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning who were combined 7-25(28.0%) from the field, 6-12(50.0%) from free throws while committing seven turnovers in combined 51 minutes of play. The game had some crucial turning points like when the Huskies called timeout down by five then Venoy Overton who is a senior committed a terrible foul against Kentucky. The play was reviewed but the call was correct, Kentucky would hit both free throws and then retain possession so the Huskies would be down by nine. With the game tied at 52-52 Isaiah Thomas was fouled and missed both free throws, a couple of other times Thomas was wide open for three and couldn't knock it down. At the end of the day the Huskies couldn't hit the shots while Kentucky got several second chance points in the 74-67 win.

The Kentucky Wildcats bigs stepped it up inside and that was the difference in the game. Freshman Terrence Jones who I'm sure you have all heard about by now so I won't talk about him anymore had 16 points on 4 for 13 shooting but had 17 rebounds. The other big Josh Harrellson added nine points and 14 rebounds including seven offensive rebounds. Outside of Aziz N'Diaye who collected 10 rebounds and Justin Holiday who grabbed seven rebounds just got no rebounding at all. Starting center Matthew Bryan-Amaning had just two rebounds all game. The Wildcats Brandon Knight score 24 points on 10 for 17 shooting but committed eight turnovers. He still won the battle against Isaiah Thomas who scored just 13 points on 4 for 14 shooting including 5 for 10 at the foul line.

The Washington Huskies had very few players step up today. Aziz N'Diaye was the player of the game with five points, 10 rebounds and five block shots. Darnell Gant who got in foul trouble in the second half hardly played but he provided a spark for the Huskies in the first half with 10 points as well as Justin Holiday who finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Both Gant and Holiday played good defense holding Terrence Jones to 4 of 13 shooting.

The Huskies won't have much time to lick their wounds. Tomorrow in the third place game at the Maui Invitational the Huskies will face the #2 Michigan State Spartans at 2 p.m. PT on ESPN 2. The Huskies will have another tough test and must prove they can finally win these games. Not since 2005 when the Huskies were a #1 seed have the Huskies proven they can beat a good opponent away from Hec Ed in a non conference showdown. It is one thing to compete but it is another thing to finally close the deal. Win or lose this wasn't going to change the Huskies season come March but it would be nice to finally win against nationally known programs. The Huskies will get a chance tomorrow but must get better play from their top two players to have any chance.


- I'll start with the positive which is Aziz N'Diaye. I kept hearing how he was a difference maker on defense but I was resistant. After seeing Aziz I'm confident by the end of the year he will be our best big man and could end up starting over Matthew Bryan-Amaning if he keeps this up. Aziz now has 10 blocks in four games while grabbing 30 rebounds in four games. His scoring will increase as the season continues and when he is in the game nobody drives the paint.

- Yesterday I bragged up the Huskies three point shooting and everyone was off tonight. Thomas was 0-4, Holiday 0-1, Suggs 0-2, Gaddy 0-1, Wilcox 1-2 and Ross didn't attempt a three pointer. The Huskies hopefully tomorrow will shoot better than 3 for 17.

- Matthew Bryan-Amaning was not productive today as he shot 3 for 11 while committing five turnovers and grabbing just two rebounds in two rebounds. This Maui Invitational he has been pretty unproductive. In 22 minutes he personally wasted 13 possessions with missed shots and turnovers. Just because Bryan-Amaning has the ball down low doesn't mean he has to shoot it every single time.

- Venoy Overton still doesn't look 100% yet. He was getting burned often in the first half by Brandon Knight but he did play well in the second half. Overton ended up with eight points and two steals. Overton still had a horrible time to lose his composure, he may have been frustrated but he can't lose his composure like that. Overton plays with a ton of emotion and was getting hit hard most of the game but still has to overcome that.

- Romar has to trust Abdul Gaddy more at the end of games. He played well on defense and was smooth today scoring eight points, four assists to two turnovers and three steals. The team does best when he has the ball there seems to be a calmness about it when he has the ball. With Overton and Thomas it's non stop driving to the hole and expected to be bailed out by calls. With Gaddy there is a smoothness in his game that I'm liking a lot.

- Justin Holiday and Darnell Gant both had great games. Both were asked to guard Terrence Jones who will be a top five pick in next years NBA draft. Gant showed why he is valuable he can play good defense on future lottery picks(James Harden) while continuing to hit the jumper. Holiday has improved a ton where whenever he made a jumper I would jump off my couch now I expect over 10 points a game from him. These two guys are in year four in this program have improved a ton since they day they arrived on campus.

Well the Huskies took a loss today but it's not the end of the world. The Huskies must continue to prove they can play in these games and most importantly win these games. After the Huskies play in this tournament they won't face a teams this good again until the NCAA tournament. If the Huskies wish to get over that sweet 16 hump they must prove to themselves they can win games like tonight. Tomorrow against Michigan State provides another great opportunity for this program to make a statement nationally.

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