The Kentucky Wildcats played another mediocre game that came out in their favor against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Monday night. They played to the level of their competition, but down the stretch, they played with poise rather than struggling in the closing minutes as they did against South Carolina.
Much credit needs to be given to the Bulldogs as they came out and executed exactly as they had to in order to beat the Wildcats. Anybody watching the game saw a Wildcat team grow up right in front of them.
Although three players had a double-double, the supporting cast struggled to help.
With several lead changes, neither the 'Cats nor the Bulldogs could do enough to pull away. DeMarcus Cousins had been receiving phone calls from opposing fans all week and proved ready for the game. At times he was his childish self, flashing the "Call me" pose after a big play and really did not lose his cool—although the situation presented itself multiple times.
John Wall played to his capabilities and controlled the pace of the game like he had been against the inferior teams earlier in the season. He finally put together all of the pieces of the puzzle to play a solid game at point. He had a great game both offensively with his 18 points and defensively, with his three steals and two blocks.
There was even a Patrick Patterson spotting in Starksville.
Patterson may have played his best game of the year. He pulled down six offensive boards while scoring 19. Patterson also registered three blocks and played a key role in getting Jarvis Varnado to eventually foul out of the game.
The three players who needed to have a great game all did so, which is the key reason why the Wildcats pulled off the victory. The bad play from the role players is the reason the game went to overtime.
The Wildcats still have work to do.
They will most likely see a zone for the rest of the season just like they have been since the start. This means the three-point shooting will need to change from inconsistent to consistent; Dodson and Miller combined went 1-7 from three-point range. That will have to change when playing elite competition in the tournament.
Bledsoe also needs to find a way to get his teammates more involved; he had a whopping zero assists and his scoring was just not there.
When a player is struggling to score, the best thing to do is to put teammates in a position to score off one of your passes.
Free throws, free throws, and more free throws should be the emphasis of this week's practices.
The 'Cats shot 67 percent as a team from the line. That is not a horrible percentage, but key free throws were missed in the finishing minutes of the game which could have sealed the deal for the Wildcats in regulation.
Granted, Calipari teams are usually not great free throw shooting teams, but that is also why Calipari has no championships compared to having one.
It could make all the difference in a Final Four or a national championship. The Wildcats may not be as lucky next time in overtime.
There will always be negatives in a game although every coach is striving to be the first to perfection. The Wildcats did not play their most complete game, but sometimes that is what happens.
Not every game is going to be a walk in the park and the Wildcats rolled with every punch and kept fighting, which in turn gave them a big overtime win that will go a long way en route to the NCAA tournament.