Blue/White Scrimmage in the Books

Oct. 28, 2009

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There were turnovers, bad shots, crowd-pleasing dunks, a resetting of the score at halftime and even players switching teams.

It was sloppy, sometimes ugly and yet exciting at the same time. It was everything one would expect from an intra-squad scrimmage on a team with so much hype.

For the first time this season, the 2009-10 Cats, led by first-year head coach John Calipari, gave Big Blue Nation its first true look at what this season could hold. The Blue team (comprised primarily of John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Darius Miller, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson) won the first half 49-27 before Calipari mixed things up in the second. The blue won the second half 57-46 in front of a Blue/White record crowd of 14,060 at Rupp Arena.

But the score hardly mattered Wednesday night.

There were glimpses of the potential high-flying Dribble Drive Motion Offense when the Cats were on the run and fans even saw a stifling defense at times as the Cats recorded 20 steals.

More than anything, though, they saw a team that is still very much a work in progress.

“Folks, we're not close to where we need to be, but I think you got a mental picture of what we're trying to do,” Calipari said. “We couldn't press more than three minutes and we were exhausted.”

As is the case with any preseason scrimmage when there is fatigue and kinks to work out, there are concerns. The Cats seemed to be a little trigger happy, lofting 45 shots from 3-point range, they committed a combined 32 turnovers and DeAndre Liggins committed eight fouls (yes, you read that correctly).

“We took some bad shots, folks,” Calipari said. “We threw some balls that we shouldn't have thrown. Guys tried to make plays that we can't make. … I'll watch the tape, point out that we just can't play that way. But we've had nine days. We've had 13 practices.”

So, in other words, it was nothing out of the norm for a scrimmage.

The only thing you wouldn't expect is the unbelievable showing this team continues to grab. Even though it was just a scrimmage, the 14,000-plus fans continued to express an unwavering amount of support.

Wall and Co. made sure to put on a show.

“We wanted to come out here and act like the fans weren't here and just practice like we do in practice, play hard and try to make each other better,” Wall said. “I think that's what we did tonight, but it just turned out to be a great show. It's great to have fans out there like that. It gives you a chill.”

Wall put on just one of the numerous dazzling performances. Between his windmill dunks, no-look passes and lightning speed, he finished the game with 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

“He was good today, I thought,” Calipari said. “I thought he played well. The only thing I told him was he has to give it up a little earlier. At times he held onto the ball.”

When Wall was kicking the ball out, he was often hitting sophomore Darnell Dodson and junior Patrick Patterson. Dodson, praised before the season as the team's best 3-point shooter, finished with a game-high 26 points on 4-of-11 shooting from long range.

Meanwhile, Patterson continued to show his versatility, hitting turnaround shots in the lane, banging in the post and even hitting 2-of-4 from behind the arc.

“What I liked is he was able to play this offense, yet you still saw him around the basket,” Patterson said. “People get worried that you're going to play this and he'll never get to the post. He'll figure out how to get to the post and we've got to figure out ways of getting him to the post.”

Patterson finished with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including his rim-rattling reverse dunk on a no-look pass from Cousins. But Patterson said the highlight of his night was draining treys from the perimeter.

“Dunking is really nothing, but to make a 3, it's something I haven't really done since I've been here,” Patterson said. “I'll take that any time.”

It wasn't a flawless performance by any means, but it wasn't bad either. Bledsoe dropped nine dimes, and Miller scored eight straight points at one point in the second half in what Calipari called the offense at its best.

Defensively, the Cats still have a long ways to go – UK didn't start really practicing on defensive techniques until Tuesday, according to Calipari – but it was hard for anyone not to get excited for the season after Wednesday night.

Calipari kidded that he's glad it's only October, but Wall gave UK a preview of its potential in the closing seconds with an exclamation point-like windmill dunk.

“It was a great thrill being out there in Rupp Arena actually playing a real game, a full-length game, playing with my teammates and getting that feel in front of the fans,” Patterson said.