The Washington Huskies' 74-67 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats in the second round of the Maui Invitational tonight was certainly disappointing, but shouldn't be enough to change whatever opinion you held of the team prior to the game.
It's November - there is plenty more basketball to be played. And, for better or worse, it's worth noting that the Huskies have raised their intensity level with each successive game they've played this season. This is still a deep, strong, and versatile unit that definitely has some things to work out if they expect to meet the lofty expectations that some people have set for them.
However, tonight an uptempo, scrappy Huskies squad simply looked like they were in a constant struggle to assert themselves against a team that knows exactly where their advantage lies against the nation's elite: they are an athletic, attacking team that showed more discipline on defense than one might have expected.
And where that dynamic showed up most prominently was on the offensive boards.
Key statistic: offensive rebounding
UK got 44 percent of the available offensive rebounds in the game compared to the Huskies' 29 percent. The majority of that damage was done in the first half in which UK outrebounded UW 43 percent to 22 percent.
And when looking at the Huskies' box score, there's one obvious item that stands out in this regard: Matthew Bryan-Amaning was held to only two rebounds for the game and no offensive rebounds. For a team that might have been concerned about their ability to contend with a big man of Bryan-Amaning's size, it's a testament to both how hard they worked to find him when shots went up as well as their tenacity in attacking the boards.
Key player: Terrence Jones
Obviously, the player who stood out the most for his rebounding was star freshman Terrence Jones whose athleticism and length helped him to get a game-high 17 rebounds, including an outstanding 33 percent of the available defensive rebounds (he finished with 13 defensive rebounds). On defense, Jones was equally significant, blocking four shots and changing a number of others.
The Huskies threw multiple looks at Jones defensively, but Jones plays with a level of intensity play-to-play that UW simply could not match consistently. Although the Huskies should be proud of holding Jones to an inefficient 16 points on 4-for-13 shooting, Jones also found his way to the free throw line 14 times for an outstanding free throw rate.
Jones proved tonight that he may well be worthy of all the hype he's gotten. However, it was a far less heralded player who also had a big impact on tonight's game.
Kentucky statistical MVP: Josh Harrellson
Harrellson gets far less attention than his talented freshman teammates, most of whom showed their youthful flaws more clearly tonight (e.g. Jones' and Doron Lamb's shooting inefficiency, Brandon Knight's turnovers) than previously.
But on a night where the team dominated the offensive glass Harrellson's game-high seven offensive rebounds is worth of praise - as dominant as Jones was on the defensive boards, Harrellson got 25 percent of the offensive rebounds available to him and was clearly a significant part of that rebounding differential that really shaped the game along with Jones.
Harrellson was simply in the right place at the right time when the ball fell from the sky and when a consistent pattern like that develops, it has to be attributed to more than luck. Conversely, he was definitely left unaccounted for on a few plays as UW's defense collapsed to stop other UK players. Regardless of how his rebounding is accounted for, it would have been a much different game without his standout rebounding performance.
Washington statistical MVP: Justin Holiday
Once again, Holiday quietly went about his business of defending and doing all the little things to contribute to the team's effort and if you're looking for bright spots, it seems like he's emerging as a consistent utility player that the team can rely upon to chip in when other things aren't quite going well.
Good Kentucky defense or an off night?
But ultimately, the Huskies simply didn't get the type of production they had been seeing from two of their core players in Bryan-Amaning and Isaiah Thomas. A large part of that was simply that Kentucky did an amazing job defensively for much of the game. But a significant part of that was that Washington seemed to simply struggle against a team that matched its athleticism and wasn't afraid to attack them.
That's not terribly unexpected for a November college basketball game.
And more interesting than tonight's game might be to see how UW responds tomorrow against Michigan State...and how Michigan State responds after their loss to Connecticut as well.
For a Kentucky perspective on the game, visit SBN's Kentucky site A Sea of Blue.