Big Willie Style!
02/04/2014 11:11 PM
He’s back!! After barely showing up on the stat sheet the last few games, Willie Cauley-Stein has possibly his best game of his career at the University of Kentucky. In 29 minutes of of playing time Willie logged a career high 18 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal. He also shot 7-8 from the field and a way above average 4-5 (80%) from the charity stripe.
After an abysmal few weeks, especially the rough stretch during the road games, Willie saw little to no PT due to his lack in effort and the exponential improvement of his 7-foot post partner Dakari Johnson. Willie seemed disengaged and lacked the effort needed to stay on the court during those games. Willie started the season as the bright spot, no Hair pun intended, for the UK team as they struggled to find their identity. It just seemed as though Willie was more worried about what people thought about his appearance than his actual game play.
Tonight, though, Willie brought the energy and effort needed to play extended minutes for John Calipari’s squad and to be successful in the SEC. He ended up with 5 of his 11 rebounds being offensive and multiple alley-oops and three point plays. The energy Willie brought on defense tonight spread throughout the team, and even though the Cats still struggle with penetration into the lane, Willie was there tonight. Willie had 6 blocks, yes, but he probably affected 10 more than that. The teams’ defense is always going to have more confidence when they know that they can take risks on the perimeter. If the guards know that a 7 foot, shot blocking machine is behind them they will jump into more passing lanes or reach for more balls which creates more opportunities for run outs and easy points in transition.
The fact that tonight Willie had a resurgence against Ole Miss will only mean something if he continues to bring this confidence and energy. I really believe bringing him off the bench helps him get a feel for the game and lets him settle in. I doubt Cal will start him next game, especially now that the Cats are 7-0 when starting five freshman, but I do believe we will see more 30 minute games out of Willie. Just because Willie is going to get his minutes back doesn’t mean that Dakari will definitely see a drop off in production. As long as Dakari comes in and dominates the post like he has been he can be a very pivotal part of this teams success in the future.
All in all Willie might be back for the long run and if he is this team is only going to get better and better. Defense is still frustrating and infuriating to fans, but if the block party is back all of America better watch out! Go Cats!