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A Lack of Team Morale is Not Kentucky’s Issue

Buzzer-beating defeats can only be defined as demoralizing.

Go ahead and recreate the final two possessions of Kentucky’s most recent loss to South Carolina in your head (I know, I know. I’m sorry). The Wildcats tied the game up with a beautiful mid-range jumper from Immanuel Quickley in a dangerous road environment. The Gamecocks quickly inbounded the ball with roughly four seconds left in regulation before tossing up a desperation heave from just inside halfcourt that somehow banked its way into the bottom of the net.

It was one of those shots where every Kentucky fan knew it was good the second it left Jermaine Couisnard’s fingertips. The Big Blue Nation has witnessed heartbreaking shots like that before during head coach John Calipari’s tenure. Sometimes fate takes control of what is happening on the court.

Those types of shots can change the course of a team’s entire season. Since the devastating defeat, Kentucky doesn’t sound like they’re anywhere near ready to throw in the towel.

“It’s been great,” Kentucky forward Keion Brooks said on Friday about the team’s overall vibes in practice. “You know, losing like that, at the buzzer off a heave from 30-feet that banks in, it can be demoralizing at the time but we know we still have a lot of season left. We got a lot of stuff we gotta work on and we know we’re not where we’re supposed to be so we have something to look forward to. So our team morale and our chemistry is still great and we’re still upbeat.

The ‘Cats surrendered a 14-point lead with roughly 15 minutes left in the second half against USC. It wasn’t even like Kentucky was playing up to their full potential, either. A double-digit lead felt like it should have been in the 20-plus range. Instead of stepping on the gas and running South Carolina out of their own gym, UK came completely unglued.

The intensity vanished. Kentucky was missing assignments on box outs and played with a serious lack of physicality that ultimately cost them the game. 20 offensive rebounds for USC will go down as one of Calipari’s worst efforts on the glass by his team over his last 10 seasons in Lexington.

“We’re [the frontcourt] not as physical as we need to be,” Brooks continued. “Still taking strides in that area but I feel like we’re getting better. We just have a team that’s young but we still need to figure it out that us being young and us having a lot of freshmen can’t be the excuse anymore.”

An explosive one-handed putback dunk early in the second-half from South Carolina’s Keyshawn Bryant nearly sent the roof off of Colonial Life Arena. Nate Sestina missed a box out that could have prevented the highlight from ever happening.

“We pride ourselves on rebounding and being physical and the last two games we’ve kind of slipped in that area,” Brooks added. “We just gotta take a better approach of hitting a man first, not shying away from contact, and then at the point of attack being aggressive and trying to get the rebound.”

Saturday’s matchup against Arkansas will provide the ‘Cats with a perfect opportunity to bounce back on the defensive glass. The Razorbacks are known to run five-guard lineups, which will give Kentucky a massive size advantage down low.

“If they [Arkansas] want to play small we can play small as well,” Johnny Juzang said on Friday. “We got so many versatile guys with a lot of talent, so I don’t think it should be a problem.”

Only one rotational player for Arkansas stands at least 6-foot-8. Kentucky boasts three with a few more standing around the 6’5/6’6 range. If there were any game for the ‘Cats to reassert themselves as a dominant force on the glass, this is the team to do it against. All it takes is one impressive showing to flip a mental switch for some of the youngsters.

“We know there’s a lot of season left,” Brooks said. “We know we’re not anywhere near being where were capable of being so we got something to look forward too.”

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR

15 Comments for A Lack of Team Morale is Not Kentucky’s Issue

  1. JT55
    8:46 pm January 17, 2020 Permalink

    Recruiting misses and poor coaching are costing this team right now.

    • 4everUKBlue
      10:10 pm January 17, 2020 Permalink

      I really hope Cal reads your comment, maybe he’ll consult with you from now on.

    • syrin23
      11:31 pm January 17, 2020 Permalink

      4everblueballs can only attack the messenger rather than the issue and always asks the messenger to be the coach instead. It’s the less mature version of “I know you are but what am I”.

    • 8XChamps
      11:49 pm January 17, 2020 Permalink

      All of syrin23’s responses are blaming others for saying “I know you are but what am I” Can you think of anything better? Also, why is it always Cal’s fault when we lose but he never gets credit when we when?

    • syrin23
      12:44 am January 18, 2020 Permalink

      That is the equivalent of what blueballs did. Your entire post is empty. And if you were even PARTIALLY literate, or a more complete stalker, you would see that my only complaint of Cal’s coaching for this past loss was the lack of a TO to set up defense. Show me a game where Cal’s coaching won the game, and not the play of his players. Cal won us our only title when he signed AD. We should have won the SINGLE nat’l title we won by 15+ points or more, but he played his trademark scared ball as usual when he gets a lead in a meaningful game. And, before you attack me like the intellectually immature infant you are, those are AD’s words, but he also hasn’t ever coached so he can’t comment either. I assume you are equally lazy and dumb in real life. But thanks for the non-rebuttal. It really stands out.

    • syrin23
      12:46 am January 18, 2020 Permalink

      Oh, and look, my comment about Cal’s coaching is literally right here in this thread. I need a less lazy stalker than you. You’re an embarrassment to yourself.

    • 8XChamps
      9:09 am January 18, 2020 Permalink

      Oh really? So you’re not the same guy that said Villanova’s coach, Butler’s Coach, San Diego State’s Coach, Louisville’s Coach & Virginia’s Coach we’re all better than Cal the other day after the South Carolina loss? You are typical hater, nothing’s ever good enough for you. Exactly to my point, you never believe Cal’s coaching of his players lead to us winning games, but every time we lose, you somehow believe it’s his fault! Are you ignorant or a hypocrite?

  2. KentuckyRob
    8:55 pm January 17, 2020 Permalink

    My gut feeling says we bounce back nicely tomorrow. Or, it could be the 6 sliders I had for dinner.

    • CrystalBall
      10:48 pm January 17, 2020 Permalink

      For sure it’s your gut feeling.

    • trumpetguy
      3:14 pm January 18, 2020 Permalink

      Ky Rob, nothing like a sack of White Castles after a tough to swallow defeat, is it!

  3. Righteous1
    11:31 pm January 17, 2020 Permalink

    This coach is being compensated at 10 million plus incentives per season with a lifetime contract. He is compensated well enough that he should not be consulting with any damn body on how to coach a team. I also don’t believe his staff are getting their room and board at the Salvation Army either. Bottom line is this coaching staff needs to coach and place a product on the court that produces wins and championships period!

    • syrin23
      11:34 pm January 17, 2020 Permalink

      And how does he do that? Second half Hagans was absolute garbage against SC in every single facet of the game. I am sure he’s telling him to not turn the ball over, stop fouling guys that blow by you for the and one, stop missing wide open five foot shots, stop taking contested threes 10 seconds into the offense. Hagans did every one of those things in the second half last game. Cal has cost us a bunch of games with poor coaching, but the SC game wasn’t on him. EJ plays like an undersized point guard rather than a power forward. Dude is afraid of contact and after two years of foul problem STILL falls for every pump fake. At some point the players have to get their heads of their behind.

  4. Righteous1
    12:24 am January 18, 2020 Permalink

    The players skill sets are not being utilized. This team is more athletic than any team they will play this year but that advantage is not being exploited. They should be full court pressing to speed up the game to a frenetic pace to create turnovers and easy scoring opportunities. Also a double team from the ball handlers blind side like West Virginia and North Carolina do.

    Also, the players are used to the up tempo style from AAU competition and USA basketball camps. This team is coached to play and beat teams at the opponents style of play which this coach has said himself which I do not understand. Make the game frenetic to speed the game up to force the opponent to beat you at your style. UK has the athletes to do this but it is all about the best day of the year in June that is the priority to this coach.

  5. Righteous1
    12:27 am January 18, 2020 Permalink

    I would like to see what the Pitino from the 90’s would do with this team. Also what Alabama’s coach would do with these athletes because he likes a frenetic style.

    • syrin23
      12:45 am January 18, 2020 Permalink

      I assume he doesn’t think he has the depth to do this style of play or is incapable of coaching it.