If you were hoping this would be the game in which Kentucky would conquer its demons, well, I’m sorry. All of Kentucky’s worst traits came back to haunt them this afternoon, and as a result, they lost to Auburn 75-70. Yes, the same Auburn that had lost four of its last five games and was ranked 13th in the SEC.
Before we break out the mind erasing GIF from “Men in Black,” let’s break down what went wrong.
“If your team doesn’t have post presence, you’re a fraud.”
Calipari said that last week when discussing his team’s issues in the paint, and it rang painfully true today. Why did Kentucky lose? Look at these stats:
- Marcus Lee: 3 points, 4 rebounds, 3 fouls
- Alex Poythress: 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 fouls
- Skal Labissiere: 4 points, 2 rebounds, 3 fouls (including one technical)
To be fair, Alex got poked in the eye near the start of the second half and had to go back to the locker room for a while, but when your three big men combine for only 13 points and 9 rebounds, you don’t have much of a chance.
At halftime, Jay Williams nailed it when he said, at times, it looks like Kentucky’s playing 3 vs. 5 because of their poor post play. After the game, Bruce Pearl had the understatement of the season when he said the Cats “don’t have, right now against some defenses, a go-to post presence.”
That’s putting it nicely, Bruce.
Derek Willis stepped up
Shoutout to Bullitt County’s finest for one of the finest performances of his career. With the rest of the bigs missing in action, Derek stepped up, scoring 12 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, the first double-double of his career. Willis’ most important contributions weren’t even reflected on the box score. He fought, scrapped, and dove for balls, injecting his team with some much-needed energy and toughness. According to John Calipari, that was enough to move him up the rotation.
“I was so happy for him,” Calipari said of Willis. “If you ask me, he moved ahead of all the other bigs.”
This play will show you why:
Why isn’t everyone else doing that??
Kentucky blew a 12-point lead in six minutes
There are a lot of depressing stats from tonight’s game, but the worst may be that Kentucky blew a 12-point lead in only six minutes. Ouch.
“When we got up 12, I said make them drive and just don’t let them shoot threes,” Calipari said. “We gave up four threes within a few minutes.”
It may only be January, but at times, this team looks like it has absolutely no idea what its doing.
Kareem Canty had the game of his life
Credit where credit is due: Auburn’s Kareem Canty balled out tonight. As players often do against Kentucky, Canty caught on fire, scoring a game-high 26 points, including five threes. Towards the end of the game, he rolled his ankle after stepping on Tyler Ulis’ foot, but stayed in to hit some big free throws to seal the upset.
That being said, Kentucky beat itself tonight.
Tyler Ulis tried his hardest to win it at the end
Before the game, Dan Dakich trolled Big Blue Nation when he tweeted “There isn’t a Kentucky fan alive that truly believes Tyler Ulis is a Top 5 point guard in the country. It’s a birthright to whine, but zero believe.”
Well, until the last eight or so minutes, Ulis wasn’t having the greatest game; however, when the game got close, he put the team on his back and finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, just shy of a triple double.
“He’s disappointed and upset with some stuff, and I don’t blame him. Kid wants a win. That’s who he is,” Calipari said of Ulis. “I wore him down and played him too many minutes but I had no choice.”
Of all of the telling stats tonight, the fact that 5’9″ Tyler Ulis had more rebounds than Alex Poythress, Marucs Lee, and Skal Labissiere combined says a lot.
Eat it, Dakich.
Get ready for some changes
Calipari was clearly frustrated after the game, telling Tom Leach that changes are coming.
“I gotta figure out what we do. Do I start playing other people and just say ‘That’s it, you had your chance? Maybe you just don’t have it’? I don’t know. I feel bad for those kids because I know they want to do this, but they’re just not getting it done.”
Get ready to see the football pads back at practice. In another attempt to inspire toughness from his squad, Calipari said they’ll “go back to football” next week to get ready for another tough road trip to Arkansas.
I’m too depressed to worry about that game right now, so let’s move on.
Matt and Drew might not be allowed to travel to another road game
So far this season, Matt and Drew have traveled to the UCLA game, the Ohio State game, and now the Auburn game. Kentucky’s lost all three. In fact, Drew was scheduled to go to the LSU game but backed out. According to the KSR calendar, he’s also scheduled to go to Kansas and South Carolina…I doubt Kentucky has much of a shot in the former, but any way we can talk him out of the latter??
I’ll leave you with this…
As the final seconds ticked down and it became painfully clear Kentucky was going to lose, John Calipari sent his players back to the locker room early to avoid the inevitable court storm. Ulis was the last to leave the court, and on his way out of the tunnel, he pulled the “Anti-Pitino”:
I didn’t think it was possible, but I think that makes me love him even more.
Oh yeah, sorry: