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Jamal Murray’s heroics weren’t enough to save Kentucky from a very bad loss


Last night, I wrote that if Kentucky lost to Ohio State, it might be time to worry. Well, Kentucky lost to Ohio State 74-67 this afternoon, and yes, it was worrisome. The Cats looked totally out of sync, couldn’t defend, and needed a career performance from Jamal Murray to stay in the game in the second half. In a familiar script, Ohio State — unranked and now 6-5 (ouch) — couldn’t miss and the Buckeyes took home their first win over a Top 150 opponent this season (ouch).

Before we delve into the bad stuff, let’s start with Murray, because he was stellar.

Jamal Murray put the team on his back

Before today (hell, before the second half), I think all of us were wondering when the real Jamal Murray would show up. With the Cats down 12 at halftime, Jamal Murray came out of the locker room a different person, scoring 27 points in the second half on his way to a career-high 33 points. How good was he? Murray was 7-8 from behind the three-point line in the second half and 10-13 from the floor. He played every single minute. At one point, Thad Matta turned to his bench and asked “Is there anybody that can guard him right now?”

No, they couldn’t. Murray’s 33 points are the most by a Kentucky player in the Calipari era since Brandon Knight’s 33 vs. West Virginia in 2011. (The record still belongs to Terrence Jones, who put up 35 vs Auburn in 2011.) Cal was happy with Murray’s second half, but wished he had seen that kind of performance before it was too late.

“The way he started the game, I had to take him out twice because you’re not being aggressive. You’re just coming down and dribbling and throwing it,” Cal said. “Now in the second half, he got going, where we’re down. We need to play winning basketball where we’re up, taking good shots, taking care of the ball, you pick up fumbles. …He’s got a lot to learn, but he’s really talented. He can do some stuff with that ball. We’ve just got to get him playing right.”

Unfortunately, Murray’s heroics weren’t enough.

The rest of the team?

Let’s start with the first half, because it was by far the worst. Kentucky was 30.6% from the floor, 16.7% from the 3-point line, and committed seven turnovers. If you’re doing that, it’s impossible to win unless you’re playing a team of actual cats. Kentucky had no sync on offense or defense, reverting to the ole 2013 “Let’s send Archie to the rim” plan, instead of Archie Goodwin, it was Isaiah Briscoe. Don’t take that as a knock at Isaiah or Archie though; in the first half, the Cats were floundering, and Briscoe was the only player willing to drive the lane.

Before we get too wrapped up in the comparisons, I think this team is better than the 2013 team, but man, they sure looked like them in the first half.

Ohio State couldn’t miss

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Just when Kentucky was feeling good about themselves, they met an okay team (remember, Ohio State didn’t have a win over a top 150 team before tonight) and that okay team just couldn’t miss. Coming in to tonight, Ohio State was only making 34% from the three-point line. Tonight, they hit 50%, almost 60% in the first half. Hell, JaQuan Lyle hit a three at the buzzer at the end of the first half.

As Calipari will tell you ad nauseam, when you’re Kentucky, you get everybody’s best shot. Davids get juiced up on taking down Goliath and it happens. It happened to Duke earlier today. Not so fun fact: today was the first time Duke and Kentucky have lost to unranked opponents on the same day when ranked in the top ten. Ouch!

Skal looked slightly better?

Skal’s problems in the past few weeks are well documented, and early on tonight, I thought he looked good, hitting his hook shot and actually showing some aggression during a tie-up with an Ohio State defender over a rebound; however, when the going got rough, Skal got taken out.

“I thought Skal was better today, but when the game got a little rough in the end, I just didn’t want him to — I just went with Alex and Marcus Lee,” Cal said. “But I thought he made strides today. He’s been pretty good in practice, and he’s making strides now.”

Skal finished with two points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. You can tell he’s trying, but at times, he just looks so lost. Baby steps.

Even Tyler Ulis made mistakes

Look, I love Tyler Ulis. Not only am I honored to share my name with him, I’ll probably name all of my hypothetical children Tyler because of him. He’s awesome, which is why it was so bizarre to see him make some dumb decisions today. Ulis had an ill-advised pass under the basket that got swiped away, a hasty forced three when he had plenty of time to draw up a play, and an intentional foul that gave Ohio State two free throws and the ball. Looking back, that may have been the game changer.

But, even after one bad game, there’s no one I’d rather have as my point guard.

Is this what it’s like to be normal?

After last season’s dream ride, the crash to Earth was inevitable. The Wisconsin loss was certainly jarring, but the Duke win early this season kept the good times rolling. When UK lost to UCLA in Pauley, we pointed to Marcus Lee being out, Tyler Ulis not being 100%, and UCLA feeling it on their home floor. There are no excuses for today’s loss. It was bad. We’re back on Earth now.

“I would say that I know this: We’re not as good as we were a year ago. It’s pretty obvious. I still think we have a good enough team to do some good things. Just you must play to win. You must play to win,” Cal repeated. “I wish we were farther along than we are.”

Me too, but we aren’t. And that’s okay, because it’s December, not March. We’re not accustomed to it, but this is what it’s like to be normal.

The Louisville game looms

Can the Cats get their crap together before then? They better.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

46 Comments for Jamal Murray’s heroics weren’t enough to save Kentucky from a very bad loss

  1. beaudiddy
    7:20 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    Skal is straight garbage. He should be last on the bench. That dude is scared to death out there.

  2. eyebleedblue
    7:42 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    I know actual cats that would’ve tried harder than we did in the first half.

  3. Bobbum Man
    7:49 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    Sorry but I can’t tell skal is trying… One play late he literally just boxed his man out while he watched the ball bounce past him never even attempting to go after it. Every other time he jumps at shots that are almost already nearly in in an awful attempt to I guess block them. This leaves his man with an easy offensive rebound that happened more than once. Majority of his rebounds were gimmies that bounced right to him and that my grandmother could have grabbed. Give humphries a shot to start, honestly can it be any worse than what skal gives us? Bring him off the bench, who knows maybe it’ll lite a fire under his u know what

    • cats paw
      8:00 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      drop the 3 guard line up! Poythress needs to be in the game (along side of Lee) every minute possible. this team needs every veteran it can get. sure be nice to have an all-american that can score (wiltcher) this year!

    • UK Big Board Update
      8:34 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      Wiltjer, dumb ass.

    • plumloopy
      8:48 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      Willttcher would have graduated last year.

    • Bluecreeker
      8:51 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      @Cats Paw – EXACTLY!

      UK Big Board -Ease up dude….we all bleed blue.

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:01 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      cats paw November 17, 2015 at 11:04 pm | Permalink
      Like It (0)
      but ill help you all out here for future knowledge. if Duke plays us again, pick Duke! they will not miss that many 3’s again. Hate all u wish but i can fill this thread full of my predictions that are generally 100% on! and thats why i get under your skin so much!!

    • catsarerunnin
      10:47 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      Maybe folks just enjoy getting under your skin…

  4. fatbrat
    7:52 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    I didn’t think Skal played any better today. He appeared to have better technique but fell short of contributing. Maybe Wynyard will figure in to the rotation soon.

    • beaudiddy
      7:57 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      Skal had 2 points & 5 rebounds. That would get on the bench at your local community college.

    • fatbrat
      8:07 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      Church League..

  5. The Frizz
    8:19 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    Regarding your opinion on comparing this year’s team with the NIT team, I keep in mind that you said that the line on the game was about right or maybe even too low. That said, at least we have the search for an offensive coordinator to keep our collective minds off of how bad we are playing basketball right now.

  6. StevieGotLoose
    8:23 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    This team just doesn’t get up to play anybody. They look like the football team…critical mistakes at the worst time making a big comeback then can’t rebound, turnovers, bad shots. Ohio St was hot, but they were also wide open most of the time. Defense is suspect at best. I thought this team was going to be a good shooting team. Skal just doesn’t have it, he needs to sit. Maybe that would motivate him. I predicted a 14 point loss to U of L in football and I I’ll say the same thing for basketball. This team is not good.

    • tippytoe
      8:56 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      I was thinking the same thing, how this team reminds me of the football team; a bunch of guys who don’t seem to care.
      Maybe it’s just today’s athlete?

    • Gitback Coach
      8:47 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      Can’t over-exert themselves, ya know. Gotta stay healthy and rested up for the draft. They’re all going shopping tomorrow for shiny suits to wear for the big day.

  7. Long Dong Silver
    8:25 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    Things that occur to me…bury Skal on the bench. Try practicing some zone and playing that. Let Murray be the primary option on offense. Play guys who want to play. I don’t give two shits about practice. Play the gamers.

  8. MegatonRange
    8:27 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    I’ve said it since the first loss. This is a 10 loss team at a minimum & a early out in the NCAA. Once you understand that, you won’t get as upset as the losses pile up. They can’t shoot, can’t defend, can’t rebound & have no heart….other than that, things are going great. Oh, don’t expect anything different next year, a bunch of great athletes coming in, for sure, but other than Monk, who’s very streaky, teams will just pack the zone & watch for the deer in the headlights look from our guys…..

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:03 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      Its DECEMBER!!!

    • MegatonRange
      9:45 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      It’s late December. When the losses pile up in January & February, get back to me. At this point, can you honestly say any player is going to get significantly better between now & the end of the year? What a log jam we’re going to have next year if most of these players continue to perform as they have. Can you say Platoon 2?

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:50 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      Thanks Nostradumbass.

    • Gitback Coach
      8:49 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      Clearly, “great recruiting classes” do not “great teams” make. Kentucky: where the “great” come to be mediocre . . . for a year.

  9. Bluecreeker
    8:52 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    Hmmmm. I saw a horrible first half effort. In the second half, the guys found a way to play and outscored Ohio State. Yeah…I get it, they lost…..but I think they also learned a lot. I saw some light at the end of the tunnel.

    • MegatonRange
      9:54 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      The only player that did anything in the second half was Murray, that’s it. One player can’t make this team great. Fact is, the Cats lost again to a horrible, horrible team & I don’t see anything to make me believe they’re going to suddenly start winning when they hit the road in the SEC. If anything, every SEC team is licking their chops right now & why wouldn’t they? I don’t even want to think about U of L….that could really get bad.

  10. BlueDeuce
    9:04 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    Cals love for Skal is odd…kid will not be NBA ready in 4 months so why sacrifice the team? I’ve read comments about Cal playing NBA prospects over other kids but never really noticed as bad as this year. He is at least a 2 year kid and rather than have him in there doing nothing, play a kid who can contribute something, 2 or 3 kids if needed but stop playing only him hoping he figures it out!

    • Long Dong Silver
      9:20 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      I agree. It is baffling. He is clearly not deserving of his minutes.

    • Gitback Coach
      8:53 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      Skal will continue to play . . . no matter how bad he is . . . because all of the future overrated-five-star-golden-archers are watching. Cal’s guys only commit to one season, and they want to play that season.

  11. Joshoverton2828
    9:08 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    Lets call it what it is.. These kitty cats are straight garbage. Skal doesn’t belong on the court.. this team would have a hard time beating NKU with the way they are playing. Anybody who thinks this team will go far is either drunk or just has no idea what is going on..

    It’s time for Cal to go !!!!!!

    • BigBlueBoom
      9:28 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      Either this is sarcasm or you get the Idiot of the Day award.

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:33 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

      Obvious troll is obviously trolling. #7-1 #HookerU

  12. houseandrew5545
    9:37 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    Skal flat out sucks, why did he keep him in the game when he now has Wainyard and Humphries

  13. Catlanta Fan
    9:41 pm December 19, 2015 Permalink

    The score was 74-67. A couple of things…Cal should sit Skal more and let Humphries get some tick. I would also put Willis and Matthews in the rotation.

  14. The Rest of the story
    8:24 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

    Skal is Cal’s boy and he will shove him down our throats all year and screw the team and season with it. How in hell was he rated so high with such poor skills and no motor at all. Just hate to see the season given away for one guy who has zero chance of making an NBA team.

    • Gitback Coach
      8:54 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      ^ This. Skal might as well be twins.

    • Leroy Bird - 00
      9:31 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      Gitback – the twins who took us to a final game, another final 4, and a 38-1 season?

      Rest of the story – what do you consider a screwed season? A couple losses before conference play? A lower seed in the tournamnent?

      If the Calipari era has taught anything, it’s that you cannot measure the success of the year till early April. Now calm down and enjoy your holiday.

  15. Gitback Coach
    8:44 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

    Glad to see the Buckeyes have been upgraded from “not very good” to “okay.”

    I suppose that’s all one can expect from a W against this year’s disparate collection of rent-a-Cats.

  16. Bill the Cat
    8:45 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

    plain and simple truth, we have a team with no inside presence and we rely on freshmen for our scoring. Therefore, we will end up similar to the Goodwin year. Not saying NIT YET, but sure looking like losses to Vandy twice (we struggled to beat them last year), LSU (they will out athlete us down there in a game between two horrible game coaches), A&M (b/c they are better than us), Florida away ( because we won’t handle the O Dome crowd well), OL Miss away (woulda lost last year if Moody didn’t cramp up in OT), Iansas will pay us back for the beat down we gave them last year and worst of all UofL will nlow us out on our own floor. Sure hope I’m wrong but see us as a bubble team come March. Yes, I know it’s December but c’mon man, we don’t look like a team with a very high bball IQ nor do we have a dominant player on the floor to go to. We have 10+ losses this year. Mark it down!

    But I guess as long as we can keep sending guys to the NBA we’ll all be happy. Take care of the players and the rest will take care of itself, right?

    • Leroy Bird - 00
      9:34 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      To answer your question, yes. Take care of the players and the rest will take care of itself. In the form of 4 final 4’s in 5 years. hang back and relax – wait to weigh in on this season until it’s over. Losing a game in December is about as big a deal as – the most menial thing you can think of…

      Take it easy BBN – let the season play out and let the team learn and grow together through good and bad.

    • Bill the Cat
      9:56 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      I truly hope you’re right. But I’m not seeing it in this year’s group and believe this will be another year where individuals will benefit but the program will accomplish very little.

    • Bill the Cat
      10:22 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      Disclaimer: I don’t like the NBA and couldn’t care less about how these guys perform there. like to see them get the opportunity to better themselves but don’t care about stats, wins, losses when they leave campus. I post for the name on the front and concede the point that right now that name on the front is as strong as it can be. Go Cats!

  17. KTower
    8:59 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

    Calling out players by name on this thread is classless……….

    It makes the BBN look ignorant.

    The truth is this is on Calipari…..he was outsmarted and outcoached by Matta

    • leon singleton
      9:27 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

      Cal says its a players first team .

  18. Saul T. Nuts
    9:50 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

    Most of these comments are ridiculous. Sure, the team is not as good as last season, and Skal has been slow to show progress. Cal is an amazing coach, and he’s helping Skal (as he should) gain more experience so he will be ready for the tournament. Skal is obviously the most talented player on the court (with the possible exception of Murray), but he is thinking instead of playing. My opinion is that he’ll be a project for the entire season, but will gradually show signs of greatness.

    Overall, this team reminds me of the Brandon Knight team (9 losses) or the Harrisons/Randle team (10 losses). We’ll be fine…trust Cal!

  19. Game Changer
    11:41 am December 20, 2015 Permalink

    Saul T. Nuts… are you missing a chromosome or do you have one too many??? “Skal is obviously the most talented player on the court” are you effing serious??? I hate to say this about anyone let alone an 18 year old kid… I really do… but he flat out sucks… I honestly don’t think he should be playing division I basketball… not just here at UK but anywhere!!!

    • Saul T. Nuts
      2:53 pm December 20, 2015 Permalink

      I respectfully disagree. I believe you are confusing his lack of experience and strength with lack of talent.

  20. sonnyg333
    12:49 pm December 21, 2015 Permalink

    Willis should take all of Skal minutes and as far as one and done goes, what were they looking at? He is a projected number 5 in the NBA first round.