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How Nerlens Noel Changed The Tennessee Game

Posted: Jan 16, 2013 5:41 PM by Alan Cutler
Updated: Jan 16, 2013 6:08 PM

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Nerlens Noel's stats at the half weren't pretty against Tennessee. No points, 2 blocks, 4 rebounds, 2 steals.

There aren't many in college basketball who can affect a game like Noel even if he isn't scoring.

"First half I was a little off pace," says Noel. "I had trouble staying focused. The second half I brought it back to life and did what I had to do for my team."

The best game by a UK center I've seen was Melvin Turpin's 42 at Tennessee in 1983. Noel finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks, 4 steals and 2 assists against Tennessee.

Noel's performance wasn't as good as Turpin, but in a five minute stretch, Noel was spectacular. A dunk, a block, an offensive rebound, another block, he misses a free throw and dunks. From the game being tied at 47, when the run was finished it was 61-56 UK.

There is a change in Noel the person. He even joked around with an official, something few players do and something he never would have done at the beginning of the season. Nerlens didn't like a call, but handled it in the perfect way.

"The refs do their best but you always have to humor them sometimes."

Whatever John Calipari says, Noel is like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He takes it to heart. No one on this team has either bought in more or works harder. So when Cal says this team just doesn't have it in them to put other teams away, Nerlens doesn't like that, and wants it to happen for this group.

"I think it's going to take a little more time. We just have to start developing that killer mentality, that if they step in this arena we are not going to give them anything easily. I mean I feel it's coming. We still have some work to do to get there."

Whatever Noel says, don't count him out. He wants to be the leader of the team. That process is also developing.