The Kentucky Wildcats had one stolen away from them on Tuesday, and they’re looking to make up for it by stealing one away from their opponent next time around.
With the LSU Tigers in town yesterday evening, the Cats lost all their momentum down the stretch, taking a nine-point lead with just 16:51 remaining and coughing up the lead down the stretch. The team’s unravelling ended up resulting in a game-winning tip-in from LSU’s Kavell Bigby-Williams at the buzzer, leaving the Rupp Arena faithful dazed and confused.
While the Big Blue Nation ushered their way out of the stands, the Kentucky players remained angry. They said it shouldn’t have come down to the last play, but that doesn’t mean they’re not upset with how the game ended. It left a bad taste in their mouth, and it’s something they plan to fix when No. 1 Tennessee comes to town this weekend.
Kentucky forward PJ Washington flat-out said the way they lost on Tuesday night will leave them playing “pissed off” against the Volunteers on Saturday.
“I know it will (piss us off),” he said. “It felt like we should have won that game, and we didn’t make the plays to win at the end of the game. We’re going to bounce back Saturday.”
For Washington, it’s a game that’s going to linger with this group for a while. The Kentucky star forward says the final result was “unacceptable.”
“We’re definitely going to remember it,” he said. “We felt like we should have won this game, and it just hurts that we lost it, especially at home. I think we have a good team that pays attention to detail in practices. But, to come out here and perform like that was unacceptable.”
Like Washington, freshman point guard Immanuel Quickley assures fans they’ll turn things around and put on a performance that will make everyone in that sold-out Rupp Arena crowd proud.
“Really tough loss,” he said. “Credit to LSU. They have a really good team. We just did not execute really in the second half and do what we needed to do. But, we will bounce back.”
Washington said he’s not going to get too high or too low when they take on the Volunteers with ESPN College GameDay in town for the second time this season. He knows it’ll take a complete team effort, but the 6-foot-7 sophomore forward is confident in his team’s ability to pull off the upset victory.
“We look at every game the same and try not to underestimate anyone,” he said. “We’re going to come out our hardest and just go out and try to get a win.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari said they have to head back to the drawing board and figure out why they let their foot off the pedal and struggled so much down the stretch against the Tigers. He wants everyone to know that while they will likely play their toughest game of the year against Tennessee, this is a very good Kentucky team and he likes where they are overall.
“We’ve got to figure some of (our problems) out,” he said, specifically mentioning the team’s effort on the glass down the stretch, among other things. “But I like this team. We’re good. I mean, this is a tough game and we’ve got another tough one, and the ones that are left from here on in on the road are tough. It’s going to be a struggle.”
With their 10-game winning streak now over and their loss dropping them back to No. 3 in the SEC, the chip on the shoulder they once had several weeks ago is now back.
It may have been a deflating loss for the Kentucky fanbase, but the players are confident they’ll be able to convert this disappointment into a massive victory against the top-ranked team in all of college basketball on Saturday.