- Tuesday, November 24 2009 -
Cancun Challenge (at Cancun, Mexico)
Kentucky - 73 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 5th by AP and 5th by ESPN/USA Today]
Cleveland State - 49 (Head Coach: Gary Waters) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 35, Cleveland State 27
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Rider 92 - 63|||||Stanford 73 - 65 OT|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats overcome slow start, roll to win
CANCUN, Mexico - John Wall didn't let a warped playing surface slow down his game and DeMarcus Cousins continued to show his size is too much for most opponents.
The two heralded freshmen made another lasting impression, finding their forms in the second half and as Kentucky raced past Cleveland State 73-49 in the Cancun Challenge at the Moon Palace Resort.
Wall scored a team-high 15 points, including 11 after halftime, as he zipped in and out of the Cleveland State defense. The nation's top-rated recruit last year repeatedly took charge with the ball, drawing trips to the free-throw line or setting up teammates for open looks at the basket. Cousins added 14 points and seven rebounds while dominating the paint.
"They had to go help and didn't have any choice because John was driving in there and getting everyone looks," Kentucky sophomore forward Darius Miller said. "It changes everything because everybody has to help and if they don't it's an easy lay-up for him. It just creates so many open opportunities for everyone else."
Wall did most of his damage from the free throw line, making 9-of-10 from the charity stripe while only taking five field goal attempts. When he didn't finish or draw a foul himself he found teammates open for kick out passes against a Cleveland State defense stretched thin.
"Our team started making shots and our big men were running so that opened lanes for me," Wall said. "Every time they collapsed when I penetrated I was kicking out to shooters and they were making shots. It was being more patient and finding the open people."
The game was chippy and ragged from the start, with both teams talking trash and officials whistling 24 fouls in the first half. A late 3-pointer by 6-foot-10 forward Josh Harrellson stemmed a late Cleveland State run and gave Kentucky a 35-27 lead at the break.
UK took control early in the second half when Cousins hit a three as the shot clock expired, then joined with Wall to make five free throws on one possession, aided by an intentional foul called on D'Aundray Brown for grabbing Wall and pulling him to the floor on a breakaway. Cousins was later whistled for an technical foul for throwing an intentional elbow at Cleveland State's Jared Cunningham with 3:25 remaining after an official warned Cunningham for shoving Cousins in the back seconds earlier.
"When teams watch film they think we're soft and try to push us around," Wall said of Cleveland State's physical play. "We got tired of it and started to push back and the game got really physical. They can think that if they want to but I'm not going to be soft."
Cleveland State coach Gary Waters said his squad's philosophy is to try and take the fight to the opponent but he wasn't thrilled with the way game officials handled the physical affair. The Vikings were whistled for 25 fouls and attempted just 15 free throws to Kentucky's 35. At one point in the second half Cleveland State had been called for seven fouls while Kentucky had not been tagged a single time.
"That's how we play," Waters said. "We're aggressive and defend really hard and when you start getting those fouls you have to let up on how hard and physical you play a team. If they would have just gotten out of the way and let that game be played - and I won't tell you who needed to get out of the way - the game could have been interesting. I don't know if we would have won but I thought we could have played much better. I think we could have stayed in that game if we had been allowed to play our defense the way we do."
As it was, Wall and Cousins were just too much to handle.
DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson fight for the ball
Eric Bledsoe gets on the floor for the ball
John Wall dunks with ease