Let’s open with a series of facts:
- We hit the road to play the #11 team in the country in a neutral venue
- We were missing our starting PG and our NBA Lottery pick
- Two additional starters (Gilder and Hogg) were withheld from the starting lineup, presumably connected to their suspensions against Tarleton State
- We played terribly for the first 11 minutes, committing seven turnovers and falling behind 23-10
- Oh, and over the last 29 minutes, we outscored West Virginia 78-42 and blew the damn doors off the place
Y’all, the last 3/4 of that game was about as dominant as I’ve seen this team look against ranked opposition. We controlled the pace, we played great defense, and we hit a big shot every time West Virginia threatened to score.
This is gonna be fun. Let’s break it down.
First, the bad stuff
We can’t completely ignore the elephant in the room, so let’s knock it out early. This team wasn’t ready to play at the opening tip, and West Virginia made us pay. Some of it was personnel-based (see the aforementioned benching of Gilder and Hogg), and some of it was self-inflicted (repeated rushed shot attempts after breaking the press). It was pretty frustrating at the time, but now we can view it through a coach’s favorite prism: as a teachable moment in an otherwise great performance.
More on the coaches
I can’t overstate this: tonight’s game had the most stark and successful in-game adjustments I can remember in the BK era. West Virginia had us rattled early, and we made the necessary changes to flip the script. Among other things, here were a few items I noticed in the latter portion of the first half.
- Fewer sets with multiple big men
- Bringing two guards hard to the baseline after made baskets
- A willingness to pull the ball out after breaking the press (when a fast break wasn’t readily available)
- Zoooooone defense. Zone, zone, zone.
- The thing where we make many three pointers
All great moves. Particuarly the last one.
Everything is Awesome
This is the part where we highlight a couple of individual performances, and I’m basically going to insist that we run through everyone.
Tyler Davis: 23 points, 13 rebounds, 10-12 from the field. Feed this man the rock and don’t stop until the opposition taps out.
DJ Hogg: 19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4-6 3PT. It became apparent pretty quickly that we had Good DJ today, and he was a huge part of our late first half surge. Special shout-out to his all-around game, which was very impressive.
Admon Gilder: 23 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 4-5 3PT. It’s really not that easy to get a triple double in college. We might have had one today if we didn’t call off the dogs.
TJ Starks & Savion Flagg: 40 minutes, 14 points, 2-2 3PT, 5 rebounds, 3 assists. Everything you could hope for from two true fish in their first big game.
Y’all, we killed it on a huuuuuge stage. This was objectively seen as the biggest non-conference game on Opening Night, and we turned it into a laugher. And on a night where Kentucky struggled with Utah Valley for large stretches, we announced our intent to the rest of the SEC.
Time to rest up for UC Santa Barbara at home next Friday.