ST. LOUIS — Three quick things on the Kentucky win over Wichita State:
1. Come together, right now. Team effort all the way around in what was a great college basketball game. Four players in double figures. Julius Randle had six assists. Andrew Harrison played through pain. John Calipari said the play of the game was Dakari Johnson’s rebound off a missed free throw.
Some of the post-game press conference was about how all the things that this team had gone through this season had made it stronger. The criticism, the losses, the disappointments. Paid off in the end.
2. “It was a heck of a year.” I asked Calipari that if he had been told after the game that Wichita State had shot 55 percent and made 10 of 21 three-pointers, would he have thought Kentucky won?
“I would have said, ‘It was a heck of a year,’” he said.
The fact that Kentucky hung tough with Wichita State’s execution, the Cats shooting 54 percent, making eight of 18 three-pointers and – most important – 16 of 22 from the foul line spoke volumes.
3. Cats-Cards in Indy. This time it’s a Sweet 16 on Friday night. The last two national champions of the NCAA Tournament meeting in an NCAA Tournament game.
You have to think this is not what Rick Pitino wanted. Louisville lost to UK in Lexington in December and Kentucky has the one thing U of L lacks – size inside. Kentucky’s guards are older now and should do better against the press. Plus, the Cats have the confidence of beating Wichita State.
On the flip side, Pitino does have all week to prepare and he’s a pretty good preparation coach. (Understatement.) Montrez Harrell is a problem for any team. Most of Louisville’s players have been there before. Should be fun.
QUICK ADD: Rick Pitino and John Calipari enter Friday’s game each on an 8-game NCAA Tournament win streak. Each coach is 12-1 in last 13 NCAA Tournament games.
Correction: Earlier version of this post said that Calipari said, “It’s been a nice season.” What he actually said was, “I would have said, ‘It was a heck of a year.'”