UK Men's Basketball

Fewer turnovers on Wall's highlight reel

With John Wall, it's hard not to get caught up in the thrill ride.

The faster-than-a-speeding-bullet drives to the basket. Dipsy-do reverse layups made from impossible angles. Soaring blocked shots. No-look passes.

Wall's arsenal of new-age weaponry was on full display in Kentucky's 92-63 spanking of cold-shooting Rider on Saturday in Rupp Arena. Yet the 6-foot-4 freshman's ability to wow was not the most encouraging aspect of his third college game.

This was. After compiling a combined turnover/assist ratio of 11/11 in his first two college basketball games, Wall's line Saturday looked like this:

A team-high 21 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and only two turnovers.

Oh, and if this were an official stat, Wall's line would also have included about 100 smiles.

"I don't usually smile that much," Wall said after the game. "But we were playing well and I was really having fun."

For Kentucky to be the team in March that the commonwealth has been visualizing since summer, Wall has to be both splendid and sound.

Against Rider, we got a glimpse of what that looks like.

"John had only two turnovers and that was great," Kentucky Coach John Calipari said.

On the down side, Wall's freshman backcourt mate, Eric Bledsoe, had five of UK's 15 miscues. That gives him 22 in four games.

"Eric had five today and that is three too many," Calipari said. "He can have two, but not five. If Eric has fewer turnovers, we are down in the range we like."

The goal with the freshman guards (and the team as a whole), Calipari said, is to learn to walk the fine line between playing aggressively and playing out of control.

After the Sam Houston State game, Wall said Calipari gave him and Bledsoe a film session that, as the football crowd would say, was dedicated to improving Kentucky's ball security.

"He showed me and Eric the turnovers we made, and three or four of them were just pointless turnovers," Wall said. "I came in today and really tried to watch my turnovers."

Along with the piddling fact that minimizing mistakes at the guard position is a key to winning basketball, there is another advantage to Wall eliminating turnovers.

It means more opportunities to see something amazing.

What was your favorite John Wall moment from Saturday?

The driving layup off that 360-degree spin early in the first half? The soaring blocked shot from behind on 6-foot-7 Mike Ringgold? Was it the up, under, and still up (in the air) double-pump layup against 6-7 Brandon Penn?

Or was it just seeing Wall repeatedly move faster on the dribble with a basketball than any player I've ever witnessed?

So devastating was Wall in attacking the basket that all eight of his field goals came off either dunks or layups.

And Rider was playing zone.

"The fact that we didn't shoot well allowed John to get out in transition quite a bit," Rider Coach Tommy Dempsey said. "He's as good as I've ever seen in the open court."

For Wall's new teammates, it has to be an adjustment learning to play with a point guard who moves on the dribble like Tyson Gay sprints.

"It is," said UK freshman big man Daniel Orton. "To tell you the truth, if he gets a long rebound or a steal, there's really no reason to run with him. You're not going to catch him."

Still, Patrick Patterson says the Cats are learning something else about playing with Wall.

"He wants to pass it," Patterson said. "He is looking to make the pass."

With John Wall, it's the sizzling show he puts on that gets the attention.

Yet it was the little things that he did Saturday that can help make Kentucky special.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments