Posted: Jan 30, 2013 5:11 PM by Alan Cutler
Updated: Jan 30, 2013 5:55 PM
In the history of college basketball, it isn't everyday you see a player who missed 75% of his free throws and his only shot from the field, dominate the way Nerlens Noel did against Ole Miss as he led UK to an 87-74 win.
I started getting serious about watching the NBA in 1960. Bill Russell was the center for the New York Yankees of basketball, the Boston Celtics. For my money, he's the greatest player and winner basketball has had. To me, he's still the greatest defensive player of all time.
The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy calls Noel "this century's Bill Russell." I'm not ready to go that far, but you can see where the respected DeCourcy is coming from.
Nerlens Noel is just learning how to play basketball. When he gets finished figuring out this game, he could end up being one of the best of all time.
I've never seen a player block five shots after picking up four fouls or block 12 shots in a game. Nerlens Noel had a performance that was one for the ages. But Cal is pushing for more.
"No, he was good," says Cal. "He was good. He had four fouls. I took him out. What are you doing? I'm trying to win the game and you are trying to steal balls. Quit trying to tip balls away. But that's again, the freshman. We lose focus."
"Like Ryan (Harrow) missed a free throw. He had his head down. I had to take him out of the game. You're head went down again. You're killing us. You're zapping us. Alex (Poythress) did the same thing. He didn't get a ball. His head was down. You got to get out. You can't be in the game. We have to have energy. You are zapping us."
Zapping us seems to be Cal's latest favorite expression.
With 5:28 to go, Nerlens had four fouls. UK led 73-69. He had five blocks the rest of the game. At 5:28, at 3:57, at 3:36, at 1:27, and the icing on the cake at 13 seconds.
Free throws were destroying UK until the end. For most of the game, watching UK shoot from the charity stripe was painful. UK then hit 9 out of their last 10. To do that on the road is huge.
"We played slower today than we did all year which is what we wanted to do and we scored more points," says Cal.
Kyle Wiltjer had a career high 26. Quietly, he's starting to sound like a leader.
"It was big for us," says Kyle. "They made their run, we got rattled a little bit but we regrouped in that time out. I'm proud of the guys for stepping up because this is a huge step for us in the right direction."
Tuesday, before the game, LEX18 did a story on how Ryan Harrow needed to find some energy, that he hadn't played well in a number of games.
"I was pleased with Ryan's point guard play," says Cal. "He was gone for two weeks. Been missing in action."
No one was missing in action against Ole Miss. It took all of that for the biggest win of the year.