Today, we saw the worst of this Kentucky team. From horrible shooting to dumb decisions, the Cats’ flaws were on full display in Columbia, leading to Missouri’s 69-60 win, their first ever vs. Kentucky. Honestly, that score doesn’t even do the defeat justice; until the final few minutes, the Tigers dominated.
Let’s start with the biggest flaw and work our way down.
Kentucky finished the day shooting a season-low 31%, but, amazingly, it felt way worse than that. The Cats just couldn’t make a shot, scoring only 18 points in the first half, the fewest in any half of the John Calipari era. Their 20% first half field goal percentage was the lowest since Kentucky lost at South Carolina in March 2014 (further fueling that comparison). The scoring droughts the team’s suffered all season extended to the entire game. Thankfully, the three-point shooting streak survived (thanks, Wenyen!), but the fact that it’s been in peril so many times this season further proves that Kentucky’s shooting is their Achilles’ Heel.
Freshmen will be freshmen, but it’s also February. I continue to be flabbergasted by the number of dumb decisions this group makes. From shot selection to stupid fouls, this team looked MILES away from the group that came back to beat West Virginia in Morgantown. Kudos to Cuonzo Martin’s defense and all, but Kentucky shot themselves in the foot time and time again, squandering opportunities to shift the momentum. Hamidou Diallo in particular burned the squad, most notably in the final minute when he fouled Mizzou’s ball defender in the backcourt when the guy only had four seconds to get the ball over the line. I feel like Calipari when I say, “Why???” but at the same time, I’m tired of blaming it on their youth.
All around, it was just bad.
“This team is soft” is a complaint that reared its ugly head today, and, unfortunately, with good reason. Cuonzo Martin clearly did his homework and told his guys to get physical with the Cats; it worked. Missouri just wanted it more and Kentucky sleepwalked through three fourths of the game. Yes, they rallied in the final minutes, but it was too little, too late. Where was that effort and fight to start the game? It’s as though this team only realizes they could lose once they’re down double digts with eight minutes to go, a nasty habit to still have only six weeks away from the tournament.
No Go-To Guy
After the best week of his career, Kevin Knox crashed back to Earth, finishing with only five points and three rebounds. A few days ago, it seemed Knox was this team’s savior, the go-to guy to free them from their flaws; however, with a Missouri crowd booing him for not picking the Tigers (an act so dumb it deserves its own post), Knox shrank. Jarred Vanderbilt chalked it up to a bad day, but I feel like a broken record when I say that, for Kentucky to be good, Knox must be good. Five points, three rebounds, and two turnovers in 25 minutes just ain’t gonna do it.
Now that I’m officially depressed, let’s finish with the only silver lining I can find.
This is a weird season in college basketball
I hate looking outside to soften a loss, but it’s worth mentioning that No. 4 Duke and No. 7 Kansas lost today as well, the Blue Devils to a St. John’s team that had lost eleven straight and Kansas to a 13-9 Oklahoma State team at home. Kentucky lost and it sucks, but this is a weird year in college basketball, so who the heck knows.
Right now, all I know is this: the comeback vs. West Virginia proves Kentucky can beat anybody. However, today’s loss proves that they can lose to anybody as well. Six weeks out, what I worry is, the win vs. the Mountaineers was the exception to the rule.