UK Men's Basketball

John Clay: UK men showing they're a Final Four-quality team

Kentucky Wildcats forward Anthony Davis dunked in the first half on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Tennessee basketball game in Knoxville.   UK won 65-62.  Photo by David Perry | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats forward Anthony Davis dunked in the first half on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Tennessee basketball game in Knoxville. UK won 65-62. Photo by David Perry | Staff HERALD-LEADER

After seeing all 18 UK basketball games in person, this I believe:

■ I believe that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist remains one of the most unique basketball players I have seen. The sum of his effort is truly greater than the individual parts.

Consider his defense. The freshman made a key steal after Tennessee came out of a timeout with 4:46 remaining and the Cats up 58-54.

Consider his rebounding. When the Cats came out of a timeout with 1:28 left, it was Kidd-Gilchrist that rebounded teammate Doron Lamb's miss, which led to an Anthony Davis basket and a 62-54 Kentucky lead.

■ I believe the most under-reported statistic is the one that shows Kentucky has held its last 51 opponents under 50 percent shooting from the field.

■ I believe that Anthony Davis is the one person who could have blocked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's hook shot.

■ I believe that at crunch time, this team can turn up the defensive heat.

At Auburn last Wednesday, the Cats held the host Tigers to six points over the final 10:51.

Saturday at Tennessee, the Cats held the Vols without a point from the 6:55 mark until Skylar McBee drained a three-pointer with 37 seconds left.

■ I believe Saturday showed Kentucky doesn't have to shoot three-pointers to win. The Cats took just five shots from beyond the arc, the fewest in the John Calipari Era. They hit just two. Kyle Wiltjer nailed one. Kidd-Gilchrist hit the other.

■ I believe Terrence Jones is slowly, but surely, rounding back to form. He's scored in double-figures four straight games.

■ I believe John Calipari will continue to say nice things about Tennessee — now that Bruce Pearl is no longer the coach.

■ I believe Jarnell Stokes will be a stud. He looks a little like Wes Unseld.

■ I believe Doron Lamb will snap out of his slump. Since his 26-point effort against Samford, Lamb has made just 18 of 47 shots, including just six of 20 three-point attempts.

■ I believe that what we believed before the season began is actually true — Kentucky and Vanderbilt are the class of the SEC, with Florida close behind.

■ I believe the Cats will lose either at Gainesville or Nashville. Maybe both. Starkville won't be easy either.

■ I believe Calipari's assistants don't get enough credit. Anthony Davis referred to his work with Kenny Payne as the key to his face-up bucket with 51 seconds left that put UK ahead 62-54.

■ I believe Marquis Teague is a tough kid. He's had his ups and downs this year. He's played like a freshman at a position his predecessors made famous, but he is improving.

Teague played his best defensive game of the year Saturday, holding the Vols' Trae Golden to a season-low two points.

■ I believe that, as a senior, Darius Miller will play his best basketball down the stretch, much as he did last year.

■ I believe that if UK encounters trouble in March, critics will point to the minutes logged. Saturday, Kidd-Gilchrist (39), Marquis Teague (38) and Anthony Davis (35) logged a combined 112 minutes.

■ I believe, in the end, it won't matter. This is a Final Four team. That's no guarantee it will get to New Orleans. But this is a Final Four-quality team.

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