In addition to passing its first major test of the young basketball season, beating a veteran top ten team on a neutral floor, several individual team members passed a test as well:
Terrence Jones: talk about pressure on a young man’s shoulders. Imagine that you are in your 4th-ever college game and you are going up against a top ten team you snubbed. When Jones verbally committed to Washington and later changed his mind and came to Kentucky, the entire Pacific Northwest was outraged. When the lineups were introduced the Washington players wouldn’t even make eye contact with Jones. In the opening minutes Washington fans booed Jones every time he touched the ball. How did Jones respond? With his play: 16 points, 17 rebounds, four blocked shots.
Brandon Knight: prior to the game one ESPN commentator was scolded by his colleague for speculating about a potential Knight matchup with Kemba Walker of Connecticut. Isaiah Thomas, he proposed, would be a more interesting matchup. The outstanding junior from Washington was expected to outplay Knight. How did Knight respond? 24 points on 10-17 shooting versus Thomas’ 13 points on 4-14 shooting.
Josh Harrellson: many, perhaps most Wildcats fans worried that Josh would not really be able to contribute in a meaningful fashion in the paint against quality competition. Make no mistake about it, Harrellson’s 9 points (4-6 shooting) and 14 big rebounds (7 offensive) were a big factor in UK’s win and undoubtedly a huge confidence builder for the big guy.
The next test comes against a UCONN team that beat a very good Michigan State squad. Coach Calipari’s team faces a letdown after a big win. The last time UK played in Maui, they faced an unheralded Virginia team after a big win, a come-from-behind victory against a top 20 Gonzaga team. The Cats ran out of gas and lost to Virginia. Kentucky is more talented that Connecticut but the Huskies are playing as well as anyone. It should make for a very good game.