Depth and talent mute toothless Tigers



By Kyle Arensdorf

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It’s been less than a month since UK took the court in Chicago and put a drubbing on UCLA to the tune of 83-44, but it felt as though it had been an eternity.

It was the last time the Cats were able to put together a completely dominant performance while and conversely, rendering their opponent helpless.

But with the return of the long-lost “platoons,” UK routed Missouri 86-37 in a fashion reminiscent of early season games back when watching the second half became an unnecessary chore.

When the Cats began their conference schedule on Jan. 6, they were coming off of a heated rivalry game against Louisville.

Prognosticators had begun to ramp up their undefeated claims and UK began to by into the talk.

Since that time, the Cats were taken to overtime in two straight games.

In those games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, the defense wasn’t where it had been against Louisville and the offense wasn’t much better.

A needed shakeup came when sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins apeared in the starting lineup Tuesday.

He took the place of freshman forward Trey Lyles, who had come on strong of late as the primary scoring option in the starting lineup, and injected the defensive intensity UK had been lacking (Missouri’s 37 points were the fewest points they’ve scored since Jan. 9, 1950).

“They got what UCLA and Kansas got,” UK head coach John Calipari said.

Hawkins’ stats don’t jump off of the page – 2-for-5 from the field for six points, one block and three assists – but using him in the starting lineup allowed for the reemergence of the two-platoon system that dominated early season headlines.

“After the last game I just said I’m going back to 10,” Calipari said. “I thought our defensive intensity, because of the platoons, was back to where it was.”

The Cats are finally learning that that defensive intensity is key to winning physical SEC matchups.

And their struggles have come at an opportune time, as their first three games have been against some of the worst competition the SEC has to offer.

But they’ll be put to the test in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday when they face one of the best it has to offer.