The Cats came out hot and got an early 7-pt lead. A few lapses in defense and despite 50% shooting fell behind to West Virginia by 8 at the half. Whatever coach Cal said at half time worked because they rattled off 10 straight points behind Brandon Knight’s assertive play to take the lead to start the second.
The defensive intensity that lacked in the first half picked up and from there on out it was back and forth as we all thought this game would progress. In the end the Cats held on, limiting West Virginia’s open looks and by hitting clutch free-throws down the stretch, beating the Mountaineers 71-63.
Brandon Knight returned from his game winning-2 point performance against Princeton with a career-high 30 points and excellent game management. Knight had 3 rebounds and 4 assists but most importantly followed through on his shot and ran the offense effectively.
Josh Harrellson was a monster with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Harrellson grabbed several huge rebounds late in the game which kept the Cats in it.
Terrence Jones seemed to come out of his funk/sickness with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Early in the game Jones drifted out to the perimeter and the Cats weren’t able to get any good looks inside. The second half was a different story as Jones found his post on the block and was able to fit into the offense sets.
Kentucky was outrebounded in the first half , but put together a solid second half on the glass, and outrebounded WVU 34-29, the deciding factor in the game. West Virginia was 1-8 on the year when being outrebounded and today the Cats fought hard to take the edge for the game.
UK shot 48% from the floor (better than last year’s 34% outing) and 33% behind the arc to West Virginia’s 41.5%. The Cats defense was good but West Virginia was able to hit their shots. In this one it was all about limiting their possessions, going after 50/50% balls and cutting off Mazzulla’s penetration lanes. Mazzulla finished with 20 but had 14 of them in the first half. DeAndre Liggins can take credit for that.
We now advance to Newark for the Sweet 16 and face the winner of George Mason/Ohio State on Friday night. At this point we should just be happy to be where we are and anything above and beyond what these Cats have been able to achieve should be a bonus. A bonus I will take any day.