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Kentucky hoping “desperate” play turns into reward at SEC Tournament

Sitting at 8-14 on the year with just two games remaining on the schedule in Ole Miss and South Carolina next week, Kentucky’s opportunity for earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament are officially gone.

Better yet, the ever-so-slight chance UK could put together an argument that they may be deserving of an at-large bid – adding a high-major opponent to the schedule and finishing the season on a 9-0 run before losing in the SEC title game was the only way – is no more.

Smashed. Crushed. Disintegrated. Vanished. Zero-point-zero-percent chance.

Now, it’s SEC Tournament or bust for the Wildcats, who now must win four games in four days in Nashville after blowing their shot at a double-bye. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, all wins to make the NCAA Tournament. The same Kentucky squad that has yet to win four games in a row this entire season.

“We’re definitely desperate now. We want to create this story,” sophomore forward Jacob Toppin said following the team’s 71-67 loss to Florida on Saturday. “We’ve been in a slump. We have our backs against the wall, so we want to just come out and attack. We want to be able to do something special, so we’re all focused on the main goal, which is doing something better than we did in the past.”

Despite the frustrating loss, the long-term impact and goals remain the same among coaches and players. The focus remains on the next game, and the next game only.

“It’s a loss. We’ve just got to take it on the chin and move forward,” Toppin said. “We’re getting better every day. We just have to take it one day at a time. Now, we’re worried about the next game.”

“It’s definitely not easy (losing close games), something I think about. It’s something that hopefully will pay off one day,” senior forward Olivier Sarr added. “I’m just trying to learn from these experiences and move on. … It’s one game. We still have a lot to prove and a lot to learn. We had a lot of mistakes. We’re going to take it one game at a time, make sure we’re not thinking two, three steps ahead, only thinking about the present moment.”

“We’re worried about Mississippi, I’m not worried about that other stuff,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “We’ve got to take one game and try to get better.”

While the team’s regular season goals will not be accomplished in the final two games against Ole Miss and South Carolina, the players still feel they have plenty to prove before calling it quits on the year, regardless of when that may be.

“We have to learn how to finish the last four minutes, learn how to close games like we did the last three games before that. Learn from our mistakes, whether that’s bad defensive coverage, execution, bad spacing,” Sarr said. “We just want to prove that we belong, that a winning streak can go on. Prove to ourselves that we can do that, we can do it as a team.”

“Now we just got to look forward, look into the future, just take it one game at a time from here and we’re in attack mode,” Toppin added. “So, we’ve just got to keep pushing, keep getting better and we’ve got to come out with ‘W’s.”

UK will head to Oxford to take on the Rebels on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

13 Comments for Kentucky hoping “desperate” play turns into reward at SEC Tournament



  1. Axel72
    9:09 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    There chances of an at large bid was over in December. The chances they can pull off a 4 game run in the tourney is nil. It’s time for Cal to start looking at how he can turn this around next year, and he better be begging Mintz to stay, he is the only consistent threat at the 3 line. I know COVID had an effect on this team, that’s obvious they are all new and got no summer or fall to gel, the question is do these guys realize it and have wear with all to come back next year and avenge the worst season UK basketball history.



  2. ukgrad83
    9:19 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    Desperation should have settled in long before now. Would love to see this team run the table at the tournament but don’t see it happening.



  3. Bluehender
    9:20 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    They didn’t play desparate tonight. They seemed uninspired…



  4. Glam Girl
    9:38 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    I’m sad that we haven’t been able to look forward to March Madness this year since it got canceled last year. Thanks, Coach.



  5. JT55
    11:00 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    Only 3 more games left. Thankfully!!



  6. EdC
    5:32 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    Sitting winning 36% of their games makes this the worst team since 1927 and 9th worse of all times. It also puts Kansas within 6 games of UK. Kansas has made up 24 games since the last time UK was in a Final Four and has made up 30 games in the Calipari era. He’s a great coach though right? It’s because his team as young.



    • Tom Bombadil
      6:44 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      You are exactly right EdC! I did the math a few days ago after i kept hearing “Cal has best record the last 10 years”. You are soooooo right EdC! Kansas is definitely knocking on UK door….and they have been creeping slowly until the bomb went off this year ..lol…Bill Self has the most wins the last 10… probably by the end of this year UK is “second greatest tradition in basketball”
      That just sucks sooooo much! Dang! All we can do is hope Kansas gets probation! Hahahqaaahaaa



    • Keith Branstetter
      1:07 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Great stats EdC, a feel ya ! Didn’t know the 30 games stat, that don’t cut it in my book.



  7. waytolongcal
    5:33 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    8-14
    8+ million year! That’s a million a win! You know who should really be mad, everyone employed by the University of Kentucky who is doing their job!



  8. zoupman
    11:00 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    Won’t be watching Tuesday night. Hate the 9:00 game, that never starts at 9:00.

    Cal is great coach. Team will come roaring back next year.



  9. Dr. Tom
    7:29 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

    Why can’t the coaching staff spend a couple hours teaching the team how to score a zone defense??



    • Glam Girl
      8:06 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      My thought is it would be too much like work for a “coach” who’s used to above average players overcoming his shortcomings to win some games.