In a disappointing loss littered with frustrating stat lines, two players stood out above the rest: both of Kentucky’s point guards. While neither Quade Green nor Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had ground-breaking or even career-high nights, they served as Kentucky’s most consistent forces. The pair scored 15 points apiece and grabbed a combined 10 rebounds and while committing five turnovers. Both players earned substantial minutes: Gilgeous-Alexander was on the court for a full 39 minutes; Green played for 29 minutes.
Green served as the team’s sole source of offense in the first half. He found his spark early, draining a three-pointer and easing fans’ fear of losing that beloved three-point streak with more than 16 minutes remaining in the first half. He was a perfect 4-4 from the floor and 2-2 from behind-the-arc in the first twenty minutes.
How’d he do it? According to Coach Calipari, it’s simple. He made shots.
“You know what, it’s funny: when the ball goes in, it looks pretty good. Your offense looks better,” Coach Cal said of Green’s first half success. “[His] two threes, if we make those, we win in pretty good fashion. So he was making them and the rest of the guys weren’t.”
By the time the halftime buzzer rang, Green had ten points. Kentucky did not have any other player score more than four points during the entirety of the half.
Gilgeous-Alexander was one such player. Despite getting the start over Green, Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t get hot until the second half – 12 of the freshman’s 15 points came after the break. In addition to his 15 points, he contributed six rebounds and six assists in his long night.
“Shai played 39 minutes… it’s too many minutes,” Coach Calipari said after the game. “Probably hurt us in the end. But you know what, we’re trying to win the game.”
And although Gilgeous-Alexander had to be exhausted after playing 39 minutes of physical basketball, he says fatigue is not the reason the Cats lost. He says he just made mistakes.
Unfortunately, mistakes defined both guard’s final minute of the game. Although their individual performances were far from perfect throughout the entirety of the match-up, they were clearly the team’s leaders for the full 40 minutes, which makes it all the more gut-wrenching to watch the collapse at the end.
Lamonte Turner exposed Green’s weak defense with 26 seconds remaining, sinking a deep three-pointer to push the Volunteers ahead by one. The following possession was chaotic, and it ended with a game-defining turnover by Gilgeous-Alexander.
#VolNation stand up!
Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner hits the go-ahead 3-pointer with 0:25 remaining, and Admiral Schofield’s ensuing dunk secured the Volunteers’ 61-59 victory. pic.twitter.com/J4BhywIDpX
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) February 7, 2018
Despite the costly miscues, Coach Calipari was complimentary of his point guards after the loss, saying it looked like Kentucky was “in control of stuff with [Green and Gilgeous-Alexander] out there.”
And they were complimentary of each other, such as when Green praised Gilgeous-Alexander’s ability to find his teammates in the lane, something he says he needs to start doing better.
Losses are always hard, but they’re especially hard on players who had solid individual performances.
“I was playing well today but we just, we lost so it doesn’t matter,” Green said. “[Because we lost] I don’t want to say I played good.”
Last night’s loss was equally hard on Gilgeous-Alexander. Why?
“Because of the effort we gave tonight. We all feel we’re getting better, and it still resulted in a loss, which is obviously hard. We’ll just try to learn from it.”
Both guards feel confident in their ability to recover from last night’s loss with plenty of time to spare before Saturday’s game at Texas A&M.
“Nobody likes losing over here, so we’ve gotta win,” Green said. “It’s not going to be easy. But we’re going to tough it out, take these L’s and try and get some more wins.”