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Kentucky's Supporting Cast Needs to Make a Statement

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 09:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Kentucky Wildcats on the court against the Connecticut Huskies during the SEC Big East Invitational at Madison Square Garden on December 9, 2009 in New York, New York. The Wildcats defeated the Huskies 64-61.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Jonathan LintnerSenior Analyst IDecember 20, 2009

Kentucky beat Austin Peay 90-69 Saturday in front of a Rupp Arena crowd of 23,938.

 

Actually, let me rephrase that.

 

John Wall and Patrick Patterson beat Austin Peay 90-69 Saturday in front of a Rupp Arena crowd of 23,938 with a little help from DeMarcus Cousins.

 

The rest of the Wildcats—excluding Cousins—were as seemingly mediocre as they've been the entire season, plus or minus a few flashes in the pan from freshman Eric Bledsoe. And as Kentucky builds in the wins column and vaults up the rankings, the different ways in which coach John Calipari's bunch can be criticized will grow.

 

The latest "shortcoming" of the Wildcats (who are 11-0, might I add) that doesn't revolve around the morals and ethics of Calipari: Kentucky will have problems in March because it's one-dimensional, either through Wall most times or Patterson sometimes.

 

So now that the top-heavy Wildcats have proven they can win with Wall and Patterson, it's time for their supporting cast to step up and show that Kentucky makes Wall, not that Wall makes Kentucky.

 

The rest of the team needs to prove that if Wall falls down injured, as he did in for a moment after tangling with Austin Peay's Caleb Anthony in the second half of Saturday's game, it won't be the Wildcats that are out for the season with him.

 

Wall limped back to the Kentucky bench and returned to the game a few minutes later. In the meantime, the Wildcats's season was in limbo without a go-to-guy. Because without Wall, the only headlines Kentucky would be getting right now would revolve around Bobby Knight's low blow at Calipari.

 

But even with Wall, things aren't guaranteed to be peachy.

 

After seeing the show Texas put on against North Carolina, it's easy to see that the Wildcats can't ride Wall and Patterson alone to an NCAA Title—that someone has to come from the large pool of talent Calipari has assembled and answer the bell as a consistent threat.

 

Cousins scored 17 points Saturday—a start—but Kentucky's next highest scorer was Darius Miller with 11 points. After that, the rest of the team finished with less than 10 points.

 

It's been like that for most of the season, too. Calipari said he isn't satisfied with how his team has played top to bottom so far either, going as far as saying the Wildcats were 5-5 headed into the Austin Peay game. But most of his criticisms aren't aimed at Wall and Patterson, the two players Calipari continually praises.

 

Calipari is urging the smaller players in a high-potential season onward to practice harder and adjust to the college game quicker. The first-year Kentucky coach knows that while he expects to return next season, Wall and Patterson probably don't.

 

It's then that the same players that are lagging behind in fundamentals will be expected to play a primary role. But now, they're at least depended upon to provide a presence on the court.

 

That hasn't happened, and people have noticed. So have the critics.

 

Now it's time for guys like Bledsoe, Cousins, and Miller to become aware. Without them, Kentucky is only Wall and Patterson.

 

And that might not be enough.


Follow Jonathan Lintner on Twitter.

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