I have to confess, I was very inebriated last night watching that game. I'm home in Connecticut, I played in a Turkey Scramble golf outing with my father (there were more Irish coffees to be had than pars) and then went out to see old friends at the local dive.
As you can imagine, the bar was much more involved with the Connecticut Huskies' massive win in Maui over the Kentucky Wildcats (Jim Calhoun is probably burning a picture of John Calipari laughing like a maniac), so I was restricted to the tiny non-HD screen in the corner in the 2nd half. I'm going to have to rewatch that to get a better idea of how the game played out towards the end, but what I saw last night was a team that CAN go very far this year.
Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns were known commodities around the basketball world. Corey Stokes was more of the sidekick - but he's a vital part of this team's success. His 16 points and solid defense last night definitely proved that much.
And how about Mouphtaou Yarou? Joshua Smith is a handful (and will be a star, no doubt) and while Mouph didn't shut him down, he definitely stole the show a little bit with 13 points and 16 rebounds against a very solid and physical UCLA frontline. The fact that Antonio Pena was pretty much non-existent makes the feat all the more impressive. With him playing the way he is, this team is for real. Jay Wright thought so as well:
"That was big for us, Mouph getting 16 rebounds," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "He really struggled last year, you don't need to hear all the drama, but just a brutal year for him last year. ... He can be a force inside. We've never really had a big guy who, he gets their fourth foul, you want to get him back in. We've always had a bunch of guards to run in there. It's nice to have a big guy."
More on what I liked, and didn't like, after The Jump.
Like: Not relying on the 3-ball - We were just 4-14 last night, but in no way were we forcing those shots. We realized that we could drive to the hoop to score basically at will, and we did.
Like: Big Mouph - Pena was a no-show last night, and Mouph had to deal with Reeves Nelson and Smith all by himself. He handled himself very well, and is making a name for himself. He's well equipped to do this all year long. If his offensive game develops quickly, watch out.
Dislike: Doug Gottlieb - Seriously, what a joke.
Like: Fran Fraschilla's self-control - You could tell he was itching to drop a 'Fisher-Price' reference. He did not. I think there was a sniper with him in the bullseye somewhere in the building.
Like: 4 players in double-digits - Balance, balance, balance. What a change this is from the Scottie Reynolds era.
Dislike: Antonio Pena - That invisibility cloak he put on last night was straight out of the Harry Potter world. And it was all too familiar. Let's hope that changes on Friday.
Like: Games at The Garden - So much history there, and I love how our New York/New Jersey boys shine there. The homecoming means so much to them.
Like: 34 free throws (and 28 made!) - Fisher was the real story, going 14-15 at the line to score a career-high 26 points despite a terrible night shooting the ball. But in general, if we're drawing fouls, we're going to win because all our guys can hit the freebies.
Like: 10 steals - Highway robbery out there!
The 'Cats return on Friday at 5 p.m. ET (myself and _TheDream will be in attendance) to take on the Tennessee Volunteers in the finals of the Dick's Sporting Goods Preseason NIT. Be sure to check in with Rocky Top Talk for the latest on the Volunteers.