- Friday, November 13 2009 -
Morehead - 59 (Head Coach: Donnie Tyndall) - [Preseason Unranked by AP]
Kentucky - 75 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Preseason Ranked 4th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 33, Morehead 25
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Notre Dame 67 - 77|||||Miami (OH) 72 - 70|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Bledsoe propels UK past Morehead
John Wall was the crown jewel of Kentucky's star-studded recruiting class but inside the Joe Craft Center walls there was another freshman point guard who was drawing the same rave reviews. It took just one game for the secret to get out.
Eric Bledsoe helped make sure the there would be no Friday the 13th nightmare for Kentucky, leading the Cats to a convincing 75-59 victory over Morehead State in John Calipari's much-awaited debut as head coach. With a little help from old stand-by Patrick Patterson, Bledsoe gave plenty of reason to believe the Cats could have the most dynamic backcourt in the nation.
With Wall watching from the bench because of a NCAA-mandated condition for eligibility, Bledsoe electrified the Rupp Arena crowd of 24,338 with his pulsating drives to the rim and Globetrotter-esque dribbling. The generously listed 6-foot-1 guard pushed the tempo despite playing on a bum ankle, scoring 22 of his game-high 24 points after halftime as the Cats doubled a 13-point lead and never looked back.
"I said, 'Eric, just take over this game.'" Calipari said tongue-in-cheek. "I want you to ball. If you can make plays go make plays. Understand, I was scared to death in this game. If Eric went down and got hurt, I was scared."
The performance etched Bledsoe's name into the UK record books. The Alabama native became the first Cat since Sam Bowie in 1979 to record at least 20 points in his first career game. That's mighty fine company to be in.
"I had to stop worrying about my ankle," Bledsoe said. "Coach told me to come out with the mentality to go for it so I went for it. Nobody can stop me from playing. Coach told me to push it down their throat."
Bledsoe did just that, repeatedly slicing to the rim in the open floor before using his vast athletic gifts and long arms to find razor-thin slivers of daylight to get shots in the paint. In the Cats' decisive run in the second half Bledsoe brought the crowd to its feet and likely secured a place on ESPN's 'Plays of the Day' when he got into the lane and seemed walled off before leaving his feet, turning backward and flipping a circus shot over a Morehead State defender's outstretched arm.
When the ball nestled over the front of the rim and into the net Rupp went ballistic.
"The thing he threw up, that was just amazing," Patterson said. "I saw him running down and jump in the air and I was like, 'What are you doing?' Then he ... I don't know what he did with his body, hangs in the air for a few seconds and somehow gets it off without getting blocked. That play should be on SportsCenter."
"I don't know what happened," Bledsoe said. "I just threw the ball up and it happened to go in."
Make no mistake, the Cats are very much still a work in progress. Calipari wasn't pleased with their defensive effort or competitive spirit for long stretches of the contest.
"I'm happy we won," Calipari said. "My issue during the game was I've coached the last four years and the one thing I didn't have to beg my team to do was compete. We beat people to balls, we ran harder than they ran, so I'm so used to it when I don't see it I'm losing my mind. We're not winning playing that way so I was hard today.
"I got a little outpatient out there, got a little mean. I just want them to know what's unacceptable to me and if you want to stay on the court there are certain things you've got to do. I love winning and I'm happy we won but the only reason you play these teams are because they expose your weaknesses."
At least the figured out a strength - the possibility of a Wall and Bledsoe college basketball takeover on the perimeter.
"If John Wall is better than (Bledsoe) then 'Wow'," Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said.
The world is finding out that may very well be the case.
Freshman Eric Bledsoe drives to the basket as Morehead's Kenny Faried reaches for the ball
Patrick Patterson goes over the Morehead defense to block a shot
Darnell Dodson ahead of the pack