After finding themselves up by nine with 16:51 remaining in the second half, the Kentucky Wildcats simply imploded down the stretch. Shots stopped falling, they were outworked for rebounds, turned the ball over, and defense was non-existent.
Kentucky’s nine-point lead quickly dropped to one in the span of just over four minutes. From there, LSU finally took over the lead with 8:15 to go and managed to hold it or keep it tied all the way through the heartbreaking final buzzer.
The focus is on the controversial no-call at the end, but the players believe it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. If they had taken care of business before then, the game wouldn’t have been left up to the referees to decide.
Kentucky forward PJ Washington said that final five-minute stretch is what really killed them.
“My view on the last play is that we never should’ve put ourselves in that position,” he said. “We had a lot of breakdowns in the last five minutes that… you can’t win games like that. We’ve just got to get back to practice and work on it. They’re a really good team and they played well, but we just allowed them to get offensive rebounds, and that was the biggest thing coming into this game, not letting them get offensive rebounds, and the last five minutes that’s all they were doing. So, we feel like it’s on us. We just have to rebound in the second half. That was big for us, and we didn’t get the job done. They outrebounded us and unfortunately won the game.”
We can’t control that, but we can control our effort on the boards and stuff like that. We’ve just got to stick to the gameplay.
For Wildcat guard Immanuel Quickley, he believes they left their fate out of their hands by not converting on their end of the floor and blocking out in the final seconds on the other.
“I think we just want to let other people deal with that,” he said. “What they decided is what they decided. You just have to come out there and win that game and try to find another way.”
Kentucky forward Reid Travis, who was on the bench during the buzzer-beater, said that it’s a tough call to make in the heat of the moment, but like the other players, he believes they should have executed elsewhere so the game wouldn’t come down to a final play.
“I was on the bench and it was kind of hard to see with all the chaos that was going on and I really didn’t get too good of a look at it,” he said. ” But I saw the replay. I think it’s a tough call to make in live action. Obviously, I can’t put myself in their shoes and make that call. We have many chances to win the game besides that so I think we do ourselves a disservice to get hung up on one call. We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch and it shouldn’t have come down to that so obviously it’s frustrating. Put ourselves in a great position and a call like that could go either way but at the end of the day we should’ve made more plays to where it wasn’t out of our hands at the end.”
Travis said that while it may be deflating for a team riding a 10-game winning streak to lose in that fashion, it’s not something they can dwell on. They do have a pretty important opponent coming to town this weekend, after all.
“Everyone was on the same page with the fact that that play was not what we need to sit down and dwell on and I think a lot of guys are juts frustrated with the way that we played in the second half and the way we didn’t rebound and gave up points,” he said. “So I don’t think as much that we’re too hung up on that call. It’s tough and it’s a tough break but obviously there was opportunity to be there at the end and we would’ve loved for it to go the other way but when you look at the greater scope of the game and that wasn’t there.”