The matchup between the two best teams in the SEC was expected to be a competitive affair, one that would challenge John Calipari's squad and show how much of a national title contender they really are. The answer was an emphatic one, as Kentucky controlled the game on both ends of the floor in a 78-58 win that didn't seem all that close in the second half. Doron Lamb scored 18 points to lead four players in double figures (and Darius Miller scored nine points) while both Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (13 points, 13 rebounds) and Marquis Teague (12 points, ten assists) posted double-doubles.
This wasn't just a win over a Top 10 opponent but rather a thorough beating that should put the rest of the country on notice. The Wildcats' effort on the defensive end of the floor will likely receive the lion's share of the headlines as they limited Florida to 34.9% shooting from the field and 6-for-27 from three, resulting in the Gators' worst shooting performance in SEC play (according to Statsheet.com's numbers their loss at Tennessee was Florida's worst from an efficiency standpoint). But Kentucky's offensive performance was also excellent as they shot 52.7% from two and 60% from three, finishing the game with a staggering efficiency of 132.2 and the much-maligned point guard was a big reason why.
"What about Marquis Teague? 12 points, 10 assists," noted Calipari after the game. "He is playing, getting everybody shots. He ended the half Doron three, Doron three. He got him those shots. That gave us some breathing room, up 12. He played well. Doron made shots. Darius made shots. We played pretty good."
As a team the Wildcats finished with 18 assists, five more than their season average and six players had at least one helper on the night. Outside of Kenny Boynton (4-8 3PT, 18 points) no one could really get going for the Gators, and Teague's defensive effort against Erving Walker was a sight to behold as well. Walker was held scoreless as he missed all seven of his field goal attempts and finished with just one assist, by far his worst outing of the season.
Should we be ready to crown Kentucky on the heels of this performance? No, because there's still plenty of basketball to be played. But if anything was learned from the Wildcats' performance it's that knocking off a group that still has its best basketball ahead of it will be extremely difficult to do. And that message is magnified within the SEC, because even with road games at Vanderbilt and Florida still on the schedule there won't be many willing to bet against Kentucky.
"You could say that. They've proven it," said Boynton when asked if the result showed just how far Kentucky is ahead of the rest of the SEC. "They've beaten good teams by twenty, the last teams they played."
Other Notable Happenings
1. William Buford's play down the stretch the difference in Ohio State's win over Purdue.
The senior, who by the end of his career at Ohio State could be the school's all-time leading scorer, tends to be the forgotten member of the trio that includes Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft. But with those two on the bench dealing with foul trouble in the latter stages of the second half (and Sullinger being lost late due to a hip injury suffered in a hard fall) it was Buford who stepped up, going on a personal 7-0 run to give Ohio State the lead for good in an 87-84 win. Buford finished with a career-high 29 points on the night, and the foul line was just as important in the Buckeyes' victory.
Ohio State made 26 of their 34 attempts from the charity stripe while Purdue finished 17-for-25. D.J. Byrd was outstanding for the Boilermakers as he scored 24 points and grabbed six rebounds, but his foul issues kept him off the floor at what would turn out to be the turning point of the game. Sullinger scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds while Craft finished with 13 and two assists, but Tuesday's game served as a reminder to those who take Buford for granted just how important he is to the Ohio State attack.
2. Creighton loses at Evansville, dropping down to second place in the Missouri Valley.
The Bluejays hit the road on Tuesday night in their final game before hosting Wichita State on Saturday with first place in the Valley on the line. But life on the road is difficult, something Greg McDermott's team learned at the hands of Marty Simmons' Evansville Aces, who closed the game on a 13-1 run and handed Creighton a 65-57 loss to drop the Bluejays into second place. The biggest issue for Creighton was turnovers, as they turned the ball over 16 times in a sixty possession game (26.7% turnover percentage). That's a big deal, even in a game in which Evansville scored just 14 points off of turnovers (Creighton scored 13 points on nine Evansville turnovers).
Add in Creighton shooting 4-for-22 from three (Evansville finished 3-for-8) and you've got the recipe for an upset. Doug McDermott finished with 21 points and eight rebounds to lead the Bluejays while Colt Ryan led Evansville with 14 points despite shooting 3-for-14 from the field. The best Creighton can do against Wichita State now is tie for the league lead with a win on Saturday, and the fact that they won the first meeting would give them the tiebreaker should they do so.
3. Le'Bryan Nash leads Oklahoma State past Iowa State, handing the Cyclones a critical loss.
There hasn't been much separating Iowa State and Oklahoma State this season, with Scott Christopherson's three as time expired giving the Cyclones the win in the first meeting this season. Oklahoma State got their revenge on Tuesday night as freshman Le'Bryan Nash knocked down a fadeaway jumper with 4.7 seconds remaining gave the Pokes a 69-67 lead, and his block of a Chris Allen shot shortly thereafter gave them the win.
Nash was one of four Cowboys to finish in double figures with 18 points and six rebounds and the high-flying Markel Brown led the way with 19, but while the Pokes are certainly talented this result hurts the Cyclone resume as they look to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid. Iowa State shot just 38.4% from two, a number that hurt them far more than the 38.1% from three as Oklahoma State was far more effective inside of the arc (58.8%). Allen (22 points) and Royce White (15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) led the way for Iowa State but they shot a combined 13-for-33 in doing so.
1. As first reported by Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com, Memphis has accepted an invitation to join the Big East with a teleconference schedule for Wednesday morning. With the loss of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia the league needed to boost its hoops profile, and adding the Tigers should do just that.
2. Eric Griffin scored 25 points and grabbed ten rebounds as Campbell won 81-75 at Coastal Carolina. Not to be ignored are guards Darren White and Lorne Merthie, who combined to score 26 points off the bench for the Camels. Coastal Carolina is still in good shape to lock down the two-seed (up two games in the loss column with two games in hand) but the loss means it will be even tougher to catch 13-1 UNC Asheville.
3. Despite six first half three pointers from Bryce Cotton, Providence couldn't shut the door on Villanova. Villanova would trail by as many as 19 points before storming back to beat the Friars 74-72 on a JayVaughn Pinkston basket in the final seconds. Pinkston scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in his best performance as a Wildcat.
4. There's no better team to see if you're a Big 12 team in a funk than Texas Tech, who fell to 0-11 in conference play with a 65-46 loss at Kansas State. Shane Southwell led three Wildcats in double figures with 13 points off the bench, and K-State's parade to the foul line (30-for-40) negated the fact that they shot just 30% from the field.
5. The ACC's leading scorer was at it again, as Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin scored 27 points in the Terrapins' 64-62 win over Clemson. Efficiency from beyond the arc proved to be the difference as Maryland made eight of eleven while the Tigers finished 7-for-20.
Three Notable Performances
1. F JayVaughn Pinkston (Villanova)
28 points, 14 rebounds and one game-winning shot in the Wildcats' 74-72 win over Providence.
2. F Eric Griffin (Campbell)
25 points, ten rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in the Camels' 81-75 win over Coastal Carolina.