Not that Jay Bilas needed a record to confirm it, but on the night Anthony Davis broke Kentucky’s single-season record for blocks, the ESPN analyst tweeted that Davis is the best shot blocker in the country.
“And, it is not close,” Bilas said. “He covers up the rim from ten feet in. Tremendous.”
Even this far into the college season, Davis continues to amaze.
After he surpassed the previous record of 83 set by Melvin Turpin and Andre Riddick and made his way to his current number of 89, the press room in the underbelly of Rupp Arena was buzzing with the numbers the freshman forward is posting. Even for a media contingent that has covered some of the greatest basketball players to ever put on a college basketball uniform, the rapid pace seems unbelievable to just about every reporter who covers the Cats.
In honor of Davis’ new record, here are few more startling notes on his blocking rampage:
- Through Tuesday’s games, only 34 teams(!!!) have more blocks than Davis. Again, that’s teams. He’d be tied with Cincinnati, Michigan State and Oregon State for 35th if he was ranked in team blocks.
- His 4.68 blocks per game puts him on pace to finish the season with 178 blocks should the Cats play the same amount of games (38) as they did last year. That would be the eighth-best mark in NCAA history and put him in sole possession of fifth place among UK’s career leaders. Remarkably, David Robinson blocked 207 shots for Navy in 1986. If UK makes the national championship, UK could play more than 38 games and, presumably, give Davis a better chance to inch his way up that list.
- With Davis’ help, UK continues to stay on pace to shatter UConn’s NCAA record of 315 blocks on the year. Kentucky currently has 177 swats. Believe it or not, only 14 teams finished with more blocks all of last season than the Cats have through 19 games.
- A total of 103 teams finished last season with fewer blocks than Davis has right now. Again, it’s only 19 games into the year. (hat tip to Kyle Tucker from the Courier-Journal for the nugget)
- It’s not as if UK is a mediocre shot-blocking team without Davis. If you separate player from team, Davis would rank 35th nationally in blocked shots and the rest of Kentucky would rank 37th.
- Former Coach Cal player Marcus Camby, one of the game’s most prolific shot blockers and who Davis is most often compared to, topped out at 128 blocks in his final season at Massachusetts. At Davis’ current pace, he should surpass him in the next couple of weeks.
Davis’ ability to erase shots makes everyone’s job easier on defense.
“We know we can go out and pressure the ball,” freshman guard Marquis Teague said. “If we get beat off the dribble he’s there to help us and basically clean it up. He’s very valuable for us.”
Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade had some major praise for Davis after seeing what he can do in person. Physically, Davis was even better in person than the tall and lanky guy Wade watched on TV.
“He’s relentless,” Wade said. “You hit him one time and he’s just going to go back into you again. He gives a second and third effort. He’s always on the move. He’s always on attack.
“I went down there one time and he just told his guys, ‘Just bring him in here, I’m going to block everything.’ When you have a guy that plays with that kind of mindset, he lets you play with that type of relief on your shoulder knowing that you have guy like that down there that’s going to help his team out like that.”
Kentucky’s potential is in its balance
Davis’ performance was so dominant that it overshadowed arguably the most balanced performance of the season for UK. Everywhere you look on the box score, it seemed like someone pitched in with a major contribution.
Teague recorded a career-high nine assists; Doron Lamb broke out of a recent scoring funk and netted 14 points; Terrence Jones nearly posted a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds while blocking a career-high five shots; Darius Miller looked assertive in scoring 11 points; and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, albeit quietly, chipped in with 10 points.
Kentucky’s victory over the weekend at Tennessee was fueled largely by two freshmen, Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, leading John Calipari to once again question his team’s toughness. On Tuesday, the Cats responded.
Miller looked aggressive from the get-go, scoring the game’s first four points and the first five of the second half. Jones continued to round into his pre-injury form by attacking the basket with fearlessness.
“Both (Jones and Lamb) made strides,” Calipari said. “They’ve both got to keep going. I thought Darius made some shots.”
When Jones is trying to dunk on people, like he tried to in the first half, that finger is nearly back to normal.
“He’s starting to get back in his groove, being aggressive,” Davis said. “He’s just going back to being the old Terrence Jones.”
Teague was at ease in breaking the full-court pressure, dishing out nine assists to only three turnovers. Calipari said this is a different Kentucky team when he’s playing well.
“I think he’s getting better every game,” Miller said. “He’s doing a great job being a floor general, coming out and getting everybody open looks. He made the whole team better today.”
46 and counting
It’s been so long since Kentucky has lost at home that it’s become easy to overlook the nation’s longest home winning streak.
After Tuesday’s thrashing of Arkansas, UK’s home winning streak sits at 46 games, 45 of which are at Rupp Arena. Of course, those last 45 have come under the direction of Coach Cal, who has yet to lose a home game as the coach at Kentucky.
Calipari broke Rick Pitino’s 33-game Rupp Arena winning streak with the season-opening victory over Marist.
The last time UK lost a game at Rupp was March 4, 2009.