UK Basketball: Are Cats better than last year? Jury still out
Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist drives to the basket in the Cats¿ win over North Carolina Saturday at Rupp¿Arena. Kidd-Gilchrist had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. (Sun photo by Bill Thiry)
Barnes and the Tar Heels defeated the last year’s version during the regular season — 75-73 in Chapel Hill — but lost to Kentucky (76-69) in the regional finals last March. Although the top-ranked Wildcats defeated Barnes and the Tar Heels 73-72 last Saturday, Barnes said the jury is out on this year’s Kentucky squad. He later admitted that it’s “hard to compare” the two teams.
“Last year, they were a different team from the first time that we played them to the last time,” he said. ”The second time, I think the other team was better. We’ll see and compare later to see where they are.”
Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, a member of last year’s team that split two games with the Tar Heels, enjoyed going wire-to-wire with North Carolina and added that both teams will get better as the season progresses.
“It was really fun, just because it’s so early in the season,” he said. “It really wouldn’t effect anyone (win or lose). Just to have that competition so early in the season and for both teams to compete how they did was just great.”
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said the contest was “something special” and added that the Cats can build on the heroic finish that included a block by Anthony Davis in the closing seconds to preserve the victory.
“This is a young team we have this year,” he said. “We are just getting better everyday. It was really special to be a part of it.”
Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds against the fourth-ranked Tar Heels and made five shots on seven attempts from the charity stripe. Kentucky coach John Calipari praised Kidd-Gilchrist’s performance.
“Michael was unbelievable,” the Kentucky coach said. “He is unbelievable. He’s the greatest kid. I used him on defense and left hime alone on offense. I’m going to tell you this: If we need a free throw late in the game, I’m giving him the ball and letting him shoot it. He will not miss it late in the game. He will make that free throw late in the game, because he’s got that kind of courage.”
Kentucky, which retained its top ranking in Monday’s Associated Press poll, is at Indiana Saturday. The Wildcats have won the past three games against their border rivals, including an 81-62 win last season in Lexington. Kentucky beat the Hoosiers 90-73 two years ago in Bloomington and Kentucky senior Darius Miller knows what to expect.
“It’s going to be crazy,” he said. “I’ve already talked to a few of the guys about how crazy it’s going to be. It’s probably going to be one of the craziest atmospheres we’re going to play in (this season). Their crowd does a great job of getting (their team) hyped up and pumped up and they’re going to be ready to play. That’s another tough game, especially playing there. It will be pretty tough.”