It’s been 10 years since Kentucky had played the VMI Keydets. In that game, the Keydets hit fourteen 3-point shots and stunned the Wildcats 111-103. Of course, that was another era for Kentucky Basketball. This was pre-Calipari and post-Smith. It was the era of He Who Shall Not Be Named. It was an era many of us prefer to forget ever existed. But here was VMI in Rupp Arena again, and some memories won’t go away no matter how badly we wish they would.
There was no way history would repeat itself, right?
The Cats took a 14-point lead to the locker room at the half and by the 12:45 mark of the 2nd half, had increased that margin to 19. The stands were filled with relaxed, happy chatter during timeouts and fans were eating their ice cream cones with glee. All was well in Lexington on this Sunday night. Results from other UK games had been announced to the crowd, so everyone was already glowing about the perfect record Kentucky had on this Sunday (Men’s Soccer won their 2nd round NCAA tournament game, 4-0; the Volleyball Cats clinched at least a share of the SEC regular season title with a sweep over Missouri, and the Women’s Basketball team beat High Point earlier this afternoon). It would be a perfect day for the Big Blue Nation.
Ah, but those darn Ghosts of Seasons Past. Here was a VMI team, that on paper, appeared to be an easy foe for the Cats to vanquish. And the Cats were playing with energy, diving to the floor for loose balls, winning the rebounding battle (43-22), and absolutely feasted on the free throw line, making 29 of 35 attempts. But VMI’s Bubba Parham was feeling it from 3-point land. I mean, really feeling it. He wasn’t just making 3-pointers. He was making impossible 3-pointers. High arcing rainbow shots. Shots from another zip code. Shots while falling down. Shots over 2 huge defenders.
In the end, Bubba made 10-16 of those impossible shots to finish with 35 points. It was one of those performances that the basketball-savvy crowd that fills Rupp was giving full respect and admiration even while feeling a bit nervous. If his fellow Keydets hadn’t struggled to make 2-point shots, there may have been a lot of unhappy fans leaving the arena tonight.
As it turned out, the Cats did a lot of good things, especially given they were playing against a zone defense as Cal noted after the game. “We haven’t even worked on that yet.” Calipari was also generous with his praise for the play of Quade Green, noting all the good things he was doing in games and then this surprise: “He’s probably working harder than anyone else in practice right now.” Green’s numbers reflect that as well as he scored 17 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, had 2 assists and only 1 turnover in 27 minutes of play.
In addition to Green, fellow sophomore PJ Washington had a double-double with 19 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 turnover (and zero fouls) in 33 minutes of play. Keldon Johnson started strong but it was Reid Travis who finished strong, leading all Cats with 22 points.
Calipari noted several times in his post-game comments that “this is a process” and advised fans and media to “not get mad at the kids. They are doing what I’m asking them to do.” So if things don’t work out the way we’d like, then put all the blame on Cal. Thankfully, those Ghosts of Seasons Past had to leave Rupp Arena tonight with a failed mission. This was a game that 2 weeks ago, could have been easily lost by these Wildcats, so progress has been made.
If the Big Blue Nation can be patient while the Cats go through another “process”, then there is much to look forward to during this season. As always, sit back and enjoy the ride!
Post game comments from Quade Green & PJ Washington:
Next game: Wednesday 1 pm Winthrop
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