Kentucky vs UCONN….4/2/11 Saturday 8:49PM (CBS)
NCAA Final Four....Houston, Texas at the Reliant Stadium…71,000
Head Coach- Jim Calhoun
Career Record-853-367 (69.9%) 30 seasons
At UCONN-603-228 (72.5%) 25 seasons
Probable Starting Lineup
Tyler Orlander F 6’9” Fr………................1.5
Roscoe Smith F 6’8” Fr………………..…6.5
Alex Oriakhi F-6’9” Soph……………..…9.6
Jeremy Lamb G 6’5” Fr……………..…..11.1
Kemba Walker G-6’1” Jr…………..…....23.9
Charles Okwandu C-7’1” Sr. ………………2.9
Shabazz Napier G 6’0” Fr…………………..8.0
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel F 6’7” Soph…….5.8
UCONN and UK will now meet in the NCAA Final Four. These two teams are not unfamiliar with each other as UCONN soundly defeated UK 84-67 in Hawaii last November. In that game, UCONN led 29-27 with 6:11 left in the 1st half, but then the wheels came off for the Cats as UCONN outscored UK 21-2 and ended the half leading 50-29. A review of the game stats reveals that UCONN shot 57.7% from the field….40% from the perimeter with Kemba Walker scoring 29 points on 10-17. In contrast, UK shot only 36.7% and 36.4 from the perimeter. Jones did score 24 points, but Knight was only 3-15 from the field and had 5 TO’s.
Importantly, the Hawaii game was very early in the season 4 months ago and both teams have obviously significantly improved. UCONN after finishing 9-9 in the Big East has gone on a 9 game winning streak including winning the Big East tourney. All-American Kemba Walker leads the Huskies in scoring with a 23.9 average, but is not a great perimeter shooter hitting only 33.9%. In addition, Walker leads the team in assists with 177 and steals with 74. Although Walker is not a great shooter, he is incredible at making big plays when the game is on the line….and gets fouled a lot,,,,,hitting 247-302 foul shots for 81.8%.
Freshman Jeremy Lamb is the 2nd leading scorer and hit 37.2% from the perimeter…Lamb is an all around terrific player. Center Alex Oriakhi leads the Huskies in rebounds with 8.6 PG and blocks with 62.
Freshman Orlander usually starts, but only plays 5-7 minutes as a rule. Shabazz Napier comes off the bench and plays a lot….scoring 8 PG while dishing out 118 assists and garnering 64 steals.
Like UK, UCONN is a young team…..playing 3 freshmen in the starting lineup with a soph and a junior. Certainly, coach Jim Calhoun has done a great job getting this young Husky team to the Final Four. However, after playing nearly 40 games, it fair to say that there are no true freshmen on either team.
UK, winners of the SEC Tourney has now won 13 of their last 14 games including a 10 game winning streak. The trip to the Final Four has been very difficult, but these young Cats have won big games defeating OSU and NC and have played great defense and solid offense including shooting very well from the perimeter.
It’s very difficult to single any UK player out because they are all playing well and have all contributed key plays/buckets. It has truly been a great team effort. UK’s defense has been excellent and as Clark Kellogg said during the UK-OSU game….UK is playing seranwrap defense….very tight excellent defense. Importantly, this UK team is shooting very well and making timely key baskets. Coach Calipari has done a fantastic job molding this young team into an excellent offensive and defensive team. It’s obvious that there is terrific team chemistry.
It has truly been a remarkable year and this UK team has been better and gone further then any of us imagined. Whatever happens in the Final Four, I will be very proud of this UK team…..but, the way the Cats are playing they have a good chance at bringing home an 8th national championship. It starts with a tough UCONN team, but I see UK paying back the Huskies for the earlier loss by winning by 5 points. GO CATS!