In the SEC semifinal game I was on the edge of my seat screaming and shouting at the TV as I usually do when I watch any Tennessee basketball game. Tennessee had so many chances, but when it came down to it, they just couldn’t get the job done.
This was an extremely physical game. Every 10 seconds it seemed like a foul was being called on someone, including two technical fouls on both teams and an ejection for UT’s Melvin Goins late in the second half. As hard as Tennessee played, and as bad as they wanted it, Kentucky wanted it more.
Tennessee’s biggest problem all night was they couldn’t hit anything, shooting just 17 of 55 from the floor while Kentucky hit over half of their field goals shooting 25 of 48. What happened to your guys Bruce Pearl???
I’ll tell you what happened. One word: Defense
Kentucky played outstanding defense the entire game. Not once did Tennessee score without being contended.
There were times when I thought Tennessee had an easy bucket, and then out of no was a stolen pass, or a blocked shot. It was easy to see Tennessee was playing frustrated all day, and somehow I get the feeling that the arena being full of screaming fans wearing blue didn’t help the Vols’ nerves.
Then on the other side of the court, Tennessee’s defense honestly made me sick. Every time Tennessee left Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe all alone to shoot beyond the arch, I thought surely they would make the adjustment to keep that from happening again.
Instead, Bledsoe hit five from downtown without a single one really being contested.
Then there was Kentucky’s DaMarcus Cousins. This guy had one of the best games of his season, manhandling the paint on both sides with 19 points and 15 boards.
Kentucky had amazing defense. Tennessee had none.
Tennessee is a better team than this. They have beaten Kentucky. They have beaten Kansas.
Then again, they have lost to Florida and USC.
So while they definitely are a better team, they are also inconsistent. I know, they lost Tyler Smith and some other talent earlier in the season, but they have proved they can win regardless so to me, that excuse is null and void.
If Tennessee can just zone in on their true capabilities, they can and will do some damage in the NCAA tournament.
Sunday, Kentucky will face Mississippi St. for the SEC championship, and they have truly earned the right to be there.
Kentucky has an amazing squad, arguably the best in college basketball. And while the third game between Tennessee and Kentucky this year went to the Wildcats, I have a feeling they will see each other again soon…