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Kentucky 81, Indiana 62: Wildcats pull away in final five minutes.

For 35 minutes or so, Indiana gave the Kentucky Wildcats all they wanted at Rupp Arena, but the Hoosiers' offense stagnated down the stretch and allowed Kentucky to post a lopsided final score that doesn't reflect what, for most of the time, was a competitive game with 12 lead changes and 8 ties.  IU stayed with the talented Wildcats for most of the day.  UK built a 7 point lead with 6 minutes left in the first half, but IU came back to trail by only 1 at halftime.  IU's final lead was with 9:32 remaining in the game, but it was a 6-point game with under 4 minutes remaining.  From that point forward, Kentucky outscored IU 15-2 and produced the final margin.  The key to Kentucky's victory, which came despite 36 percent shooting, were turnovers and rebounding.  The Hoosiers had on 6 offensive rebounds to UK's 27 defensive rebounds, and UK had 18 compared to IU's 27 defensive rebounds.  Also, the Wildcats shot 44 free throws to IU's 14.  Finally, UK took very good care of the ball.  UK had only 6 turnovers in what my rough math indicates was a 75 possession game.  IU's total of 14 was not bad, but clearly, the offensive rebounds and lack of turnovers created lots of opportunities for Kentucky.  In his postgame radio interview, Tom Crean noted that he had decided to focus on transition defense, and that focus may have had some impact on IU's offensive rebounding numbers, but he still was dissatisfied with IU's work on the offensive boards, noting that the starting five had only 3 OR. 

Individual numbers:
  • Christian Watford led the way with 19 points and 9 rebounds.  He shot only 6-19 from the field but was 5-5 from the line.
  • Verdell Jones slightly injured his knee and missed most of the second half.  He had 5 points and only 1 turnover in 18 minutes.
  • Victor Oladipo scored 10 points of the bench with 4-6 shooting.  He had 4 rebounds but 4 turnovers.
  • Jordan Hulls scored 10 points and had 3 assists to 1 turnover, but fouled out in 27 minutes of play.
As I said before, there are no moral victories in this series.  A loss is a loss, and IU's 35 minutes of solid play was not enough to prevent an ultimately lopsided loss.  Still, it was heartening to see IU play without butterflies in one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball against a significantly more talented team.  If IU can stay healthy and continue to make progress, then this game does provide hope that IU can compete in the Big Ten this season.  IU next faces SIU-Edwardsville on Friday and South Carolina State on Monday, both at home, before heading to Las Vegas to play Northern Iowa and either Colorado or New Mexico.