We have now hit a stretch of back to back games where Kentucky has spent the first five or so minutes of the game “in the locker room” and instead decided to spot the other team a double digit lead. Yes, I know that it ended up working out in the long run, but this is a trend that needs to stop now.
On Tuesday, the Cats make the trip to Athens and meet up with their old friend Tom Crean. While Georgia is not a great basketball team, the last thing Kentucky needs to do is to let an already hostile environment jump up another level in the opening minutes. Basketball is a game of runs and a game of momentum. The key is which team can limit the other team in that specific category. Whichever does typically comes out with the win.
After Georgia, it sure doesn’t get any easier with games against Auburn, Mississippi State and Kansas, all ranked teams, coming to finish out the month. If you spot any of those teams a ten plus point lead, you might just want to kiss away your chances at winning.
During the postgame press conference, head coach John Calipari said, “We have got to figure out how we start games. It’s getting ridiculous. It’s five halves in a row where we just start the game and we’re getting smashed.”
When Mike Pratt was talking with Immanuel Quickley about the slow starts, Quickley said that he didn’t really know what the reason was behind it.
Now for the all important question, how do you fix it? For me, I think the most obvious choice is to switch up the starting lineup. Is it the right choice? Maybe not, but it might put a spark into the team.
Last night, Kentucky started Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Reid Travis for the eighth time this season. UK is now 5-3 with that lineup.
While I do think that is the best five, why not switch in Quickley for Herro? Montgomery for Washington? Hell if Jemarl Baker will give you a spark; I am perfectly fine with putting him in the starting five. Find something to see if a player can’t bring a spark to the team early on.
If nothing changes, slow starts could be the doom of the team. Sure, there are good teams that get into holes and climb out of them against good teams, but obviously the percentage chance takes a huge hit. With just about two months until March Madness, something needs to happen and something needs to happen now.