Friday, December 11, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: BE-SEC 1st Night at the Garden

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - Many times the game does not live up to the hype. Not last night. UConn-UK gave us everything. Intensity of March, a packed (15,000 plus) Garden, the first collegiate appearance in New York of Kentucky’s eminently praised freshman sensation John Wall and two marquee programs laying it all on the line in the feature contest of the SEC-Big east Challenge. Kentucky defeated UConn 64-61 in a game not decided until the last possession (two missed treys by the Huskies).

Possession numbers:
Went over calculations a few times but still had a three possession difference. Many times possessions are even sometimes they deviate by one or two. A difference of three is not a regular occurrence.


Kentucky opened the first four minutes with a 12-0 run. During that stretch UCONN had more timeouts (2) than points (0). They never panicked and gradually got back in it. Transition opportunities fueled by some solid inside play allowed UConn to establish a run to take the lead.

UConn led 29-23 at the break but Kentucky opened strong and gradually rebuilt a slim lead. With a minute to go UConn led 61-60. With half a minute to go and the entire Garden knowing his number would be called, John Wall , UK’s marquee freshman, converted a conventional three point play for the ultimate margin of victory.

The four factors:


The UConn turnover rate stands out as absurdly high. The work on the offensive boards offset the turnovers to a degree for UCONN. A glaring figure on the stat sheet was UConn’s 14 of 24 from the line. A game breaker in a one possession affair as this.

Wall led all scorers with 25 points. He scored four of UK’s 5 field goals the last 8 minutes. Calipari quickly notes the signs of youth, 2 assists 7 turnovers. But for a highly touted frosh to come into a packed MSG, against an outstanding program, and will his team to win in crunch time speaks volumes of his ability and collective poise.

Patrick Patterson had a solid 16 point effort for the Wildcats. UCONN was led by Jerome Dyson with 17 points. Gavin Edwards continues to impress. A career 3 ppg scorer entering this season, the 6-10 senior came off the bench to contribute 16 points 8 rebounds.

The first game saw St.John’s earn a 66-56 victory over Georgia. Following the game Georgia coach Mark Fox commented, “I thought in the first half we played pretty well.” A breakdown at the half with St.John’s leading 28-25.

St. John's3190

‘Pretty well’? The defensive efficiency of 90 can get you a fair amount of wins. Even there, St.John’s eFG percentage was 45% and the turnover rate was under 20%. Georgia defense was respectable the first twenty minutes, nothing great. The offense was ‘offensive’. A 78 OE is putrid. Even colleagues without calculators going while quotes were being scribbled, wondered about Fox’s assessment of the first twenty minutes.

For the game:

St. John's63105

The four factors:

St. John's56182924

St.John’s coach Norm Roberts cited ball pressure on the guards and a good defensive effort as keys. Turnover rate was largely due to some carelessness with the ball with a double digit lead in the waning minutes, something Roberts wants to address.

Dwight Hardy led St.John’s with 12 points. DJ Kennedy, Paris Horne and Sean Evans did not start due to being 3 minutes late for the team bus. The St.John’s trio all played 29-31 minutes and contributed.

Red Storm improved to 7-1 and a significant sign to date, they are beating the teams they should.

Trey Thompkins, a 6-10 soph, led all scorers with 19 points. He is the Bulldogs lone signature or go to player. It figures to be a long year in Athens, Georgia.

“This team has a nice will to win. We have to stop drinking the poison (listening to the hype) and just get better in practice.” - UK coach John Calipari

“(John) Wall is ‘all of that’ He’s a tremendous, tremendous player. He is a big time player.” - UConn coach Jim Calhoun

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