Anybody who expected the Friars to win this game could be considered naive or a little too optimistic, but a twenty point loss to Kentucky is nothing to be ashamed of.
This year's Kentucky team is considered to be the best team ever assembled in the history of college basketball. The debate over Kentucky's ability to beat an NBA team still remains, but their ability to beat the Friars was on full display as John Calipari's club thumped Ed Cooley's by the score of 58-38.
The game started with optimism as Kris Dunn was put into the starting lineup after suffering a sprained ankle the previous weekend against Notre Dame. Kentucky began with a quick 6-0 run but after a three by Carsion Derosiers, the Friars calmed down and started to play with little fear against the Wildcats or as I like to call them "The Lexington D-League Basketball Team."
The Wildcats were trying to steal every pass and block every shot and that allowed the Friars to get some easy baskets including a nice alley-oop from Kyron Cartwright to Tyler Harris. The Friars continued to play well until Kentucky went on a scoring spree and ended the half winning 26-22.
Two of the most notable observations in the first half was John Calipari's decision to play their NBA ready 7-1 center Willie Cauley-Stein on LaDontae Henton. LaDonate was scoring in bunches before their game against Kentucky and would only score three in the first half. The combination of height, speed, and aggressiveness was a situation LaDonate has never been in before and probably never be put in that situation for the rest of his collegiate career.
There is no other center in the country with Will Cauley-Stein's combination of length and quickness and LaDontae certainly should not be criticized for his performance. Ed Cooley said it best after the game when he said, "I think they put probably one of the best defensive players I've seen in a long time in Cauley-Stein. He's got quick feet, he's long, he jumps over mountains."
The other was that Kris Dunn seemed to be a little overwhelmed by their athleticism because he committed five turnovers in the first half and things only got worse for the Friars for the remainder of the game.
Kentucky would live up to they hype and then some in the second half. The Wildcats' length, speed, and aggressiveness became to much for the Friars and in a blink of an eye the Friars were out of reach and behind 44-29 with ten minutes remaining in the game.
The turnovers by Kris Dunn allowed Kentucky to get a lot of points off transition and a lot of credit has to go to Tyler Ulis. Ed Cooley praised Ulis after the game and said, "I think he's a special player. He's got the ‘it.' He's a player who I think you guys are going to see really grow. He does a good job guarding the ball, he's low to the ground, and he's got some toughness. He's a player that has the ultimate ‘it."
Tyler was harassing the Friars back court and Kentucky was starting to hit some shots. The shot altering abilities of Kentucky's centers allowed the Friars to only score 16 points in the second half and went 4-for-29 for the final 28 minutes in the 58-38 loss.
Even though the Friars have had a really good start to the season, their is still a lot of improvement to be made until tournament time. Kentucky beat Kansas by 32 and a loss like this has the ability to inspire a team. Ed Cooley seemed optimism after the game. "It was a tough matchup. We're not going to put our head in the sand over one game, we'll move on."