John Calipari has a special relationship with his guards. Since the ball is always in their hands, guards are Calipari’s extension on the court, and it is difficult to separate Calipari from Dajuan Wagner, Darius Washington Jr., Derrick Rose, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, and now, Andrew and Aaron Harrison. The Harrison twins have suffered the normal inconsistencies of any freshman, but because they represent the Big Blue, and entered college with the hype usually reserved for the Dalai Lama, every bad game has been dissected and analyzed. But the brotherly backcourt is currently peaking, playing arguably the best combined basketball of the season, and their efforts were crucial in helping UK outlast Georgia, 70-58, in the SEC semifinal.
UGA was initially able to keep the contest close thanks to a combination of inverted offense and switching defenses, but Kentucky’s athleticism took over in the second half. An element of John Calipari’s fabled ‘tweak’ appears to be allowing Julius Randle to go one-on-one when the shot clock dwindles, and the big recorded his 20th double-double versus the Bulldogs, and is now tied with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis for most ever by a Wildcat frosh.
Another aspect of the tweak has to be the play of Andrew Harrison. The guard spent much of the regular season driving the interior and seeking out contact to get to the stripe, but during the past two games, Harrison has been searching for teammates, not fouls, when he reaches the interior. The frosh now has 17 assists and only six turnovers through two SEC games. His brother, Aaron, hasn’t let Andrew soak up the statistical spotlight: the guard led the team against UGA, scoring 22 points, and is making 50 percent of his field goals in SEC tourney play.
Now UK will face off against Florida, a team that has defeated them twice already this season. UK’s young backcourt hasn’t fared well when matched up with the Gators, but the simplification of UK’s offense seems to have sparked something in both Harrisons. Rather than overcomplicate their game, and try to force the offense, the twins are using their athleticism, picking their spots to display those talents, and relying on an abundance of talented teammates. Even though Kentucky played Florida just last Saturday, this UK team has changed, and it is because of the relationship, trust, and confidence Calipari has in the twins to lead the squad.