Monday, December 5, 2011

The Best College Basketball Game We May See All Season

Saturday in Rupp Arena, No. 1 Kentucky defeated No. 5 North Carolina 73-72 as freshman shot-blocking phenom Anthony Davis gave junior shot-blocking sensation John Henson a taste of his own medicine as the seconds ticked away.

Our friend Ed broke down the excitement in depth, but I wanted to add a few of my own reactions.

For starters, I was watching the game with my roommate, and just witnessing the sheer athleticism and high level of play for a college game made us both take notice that something was different about this one. Sure, there were still plenty of mistakes that college players make, particularly in the early season, but there was a level of intensity combined with skill in this one that put it on a different plain.

Heading into the season, these were perhaps the two most hyped teams in the country, and as the game approached, many pundits were projecting anywhere from nine to 12 NBA players might be taking the court in this one. After watching the contest, those proclamations are easy to understand.

As Ed noted, highly touted sophomores Harrison Barnes and Terence Jones went toe-to-toe, with Jones getting things started in the first half and Barnes, after a slow start plagued by foul trouble, hit big bucket after big bucket in the second half to keep UNC in it. Tyler Zeller was having his way in the first half before being constantly doubled in the final 20 minutes. Doron Lamb showed a killer instinct, dropping clutch shots for the Wildcats. John Henson and Anthondy Davis used their go-go gadget arms to bother and block shots.

P.J. Hairston showed the shooting stroke he displayed in high school, while Kendall Marshall showed he has an outside shot too. Darius Miller quietly did his thing, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, one of the top recruits in the nation, exploded for a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds, becoming the true difference-maker in the 2nd half.

It was an incredibly exciting, fun game to watch. The only thing I didn't like was the outcome — and the final possession for UNC. I know that I just preached to the Tar Heels to get Tyler Zeller the ball, but you absolutely have to put the ball in Harrison Barnes' hands there at the end. He's the team's best shot-maker, he had hit some huge threes in the 2nd half, he has a penchant for hitting game-winning shots, and Kentucky was swarming Zeller every time he touched the ball.

Regardless, it was easily the best college basketball game so far this year, and it very well may be the best one we see all season. As Ed said, we would be lucky as hell to get a national championship game like this one.

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