Steve Lavin watched the Red Storm step onto the court at historic Rupp Arena from home, regaining his energy from his surgery. He was hoping to see his young charges pull out a shocking win with the nation's college basketball eyes on the the Kentucky/ St. John's matchup.
Unfortunately, the limits of depth, talent, rebounding, youth, and shooting range were all evident from the beginning for the Red Storm as the Johnnies were blown out, 81-59.
St. John's goes to 4-4 on the season, and continues their Midwestern road trip on Monday with a game against Detroit. The Wildcats showed the nation why they are the #1 team in the country, and move to 7-0 on the season. The Wildcats have a home game against the UNC Tar Heels on Saturday; they looked ready to take on all rivals this evening.
The Wildcats dominated with their size. Kentucky's star freshman Anthony Davis (15 points, 15 total rebounds/ 7 offensive, 8 blocks) dominated on the glass, and with his blocked shots. His presence, along with Terrence Jones (26 points, 9 total rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 steals) bothered St. John's, who came in looking to slow the pace of the game.
"We tried to stay disciplined and try to make those guys play defense for longer than they normally play," Nurideen Lindsey explained after the game. The pace was slowed... so much so that the Red Storm ended up with six shot clock violations in total, as they struggled to find space to take a shot.
"We had two gears," Mike Dunlap added. "One is our run game in the first six seconds and the other is play through the mental part of the possession because we wanted to make sure there were some mistakes made [by Kentucky] and there were. But the problem was that when we got into the paint we couldn’t finish or make that extra pass, and that’s something that we are going to have to learn. I thought that we were a bit passive... but I thought that was also the 23,000 people."
Despite the passivity, the Red Storm ended the first half only down 31-20 at the half, despite 10 Kentucky blocked shots. Both teams missed shots, turned the ball over (22% of possessions for Kentucky; 25% for St. John's), and neither team got free throw attempts.
But Kentucky wore down the Red Storm in the second half, ballooning the lead to a final margin of 22. The Wildcats grabbed 41.5% of their offensive rebound chances, and only ended with 12 turnovers; St. John's had 19, and couldn't get the easy put-backs that Kentucky enjoyed in front of the home crowd.
Doron Lamb contributed 16 points for the Wildcats.
More analysis - and positives - from the game in the morning from the Rumble.
Sports Illustrated highlights: