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Kentucky: They’re not who we thought they were (yet)

Admit it: at some point in the past week, you thought about 40-0. No one wanted to say it out loud, but as Kentucky poured the points on Arizona State, it was there, like a little worm dancing in the back of your mind. Well, put that worm back in the tequila because the Cats got served a big piece of humble pie this afternoon in Rupp, losing to UCLA 97-92. Sadly, it wasn’t even that close.

Let’s break it down because I guess we have to.

1. Lots of firsts today, and not in a good way

Today’s loss was the first for the Cats in Rupp Arena since February 27, 2014. That’s a 42-game winning streak gone. It’s only Calipari’s fifth loss at Rupp Arena as UK’s head coach. Today was also the first time a team’s scored 97 points on Kentucky in the Calipari era. Simply put, it was not a good day. UCLA beat Kentucky in every facet of the game: points, obviously; rebounding (UCLA 41 UK 38); shooting (UCLA 53% UK 41%); and assists (UCLA 18 UK 16). Kentucky actually had fewer turnovers than UCLA (18-9), but didn’t capitalize on them enough.

2. UCLA wanted it more

One of the more upsetting parts about today’s game was that it looked like UCLA just wanted it more. After hearing how this team hadn’t turned in a bad practice yet, that’s what bothered me the most. Same for Cal.

“To come in and do what they did to us, and they manhandled us, they physically manhandled us,” Calipari said. “You don’t see that very often, especially in this building.”

It felt off from the start. Despite the early start and time zone difference, UCLA sprinted out to a 4-0 lead, prompting Calipari to take a timeout about a minute in, which rarely happens.

“This is a lesson for us,” Cal said. “We didn’t have the energy. I had to call a timeout a minute into the game. I mean, just wasn’t the same team.”

Get ready, because “lesson” is the word of the day.

3. Where was the defense?

As mentioned, UCLA shot 53% from the floor, 43.5% from behind the three-point line. Give all the credit to UCLA, they came in with a game plan and stuck to it, doing everything well that Kentucky did poorly. The Bruins had better shot selection, poise, and execution. UCLA came into this game averaging 97 points, the third most in the country, and hit that mark exactly today; sadly, Kentucky didn’t do a lot to stop them.

“For us, this wasn’t about offensively, it was, we gave up ten threes and I’m guessing six of them, we left a shooter,” Cal said after. “We didn’t have discipline defensively. We just didn’t.”

4. TJ Leaf, man

All the talk heading into the game centered around Lonzo Ball, and he’s good, but it was TJ Leaf that tore the Cats apart today. Leaf finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Cats had no answer for him.

“I mean, what Leaf did, basically dominated the game,” Cal said.

Add in 19 from Isaac Hamilton and 14 from Lonzo Ball and that Welsh Feathers kid and it was not good.

5. Calipari decided not to have a shootaround today

Count Calipari among those that thought Kentucky could handle the big stage today. Cal admitted that he decided not to have a shoot-around this morning, a decision that in retrospect, he wished he hadn’t made.

“I decided not to have a shootaround. I’m not making an excuse. That was my choice. Now that I see the result, I would have had a shootaround this morning. I just felt maybe they were mature enough to do this. I’m learning about this team.”

6. No finishing around the rim

How many times today did Kentucky have an easy shot and missed it? Probably as many cuss words that flew across my living room, because that was infuriating. The Cats missed WAY too many gimmes, our post players especially (looking at you, Bam). Equally as infuriating was the shot selection. Why pull up and take an 18-footer when you can drive to the rim and get the layup? Isaiah Briscoe was 0-5 from the three-point line. Why are you shooting so many threes, Isaiah? I feel like each member of the team needed to be reminded of what they do well. I’m sure they’ll be reminded plenty this week.

“Dunk the ball, Bam. Why are you laying it?” Calipari lamented on the postgame show. “He missed a lot of one-foot shots. It’s demoralizing. Go dunk the ball.”

7. Five to six players were under the weather

It’s no excuse, but Derek Willis said in his postgame interview that five to six Kentucky players were under the weather, including himself. Derek said he didn’t get much sleep and was nauseous overnight. So, if you’re looking for an excuse, there’s one; however, Calipari’s not buying it.

“No. No, no no. Had nothing to do with anything. The factor in the game is they played better than us and they played harder than us and they had more fight than we had.”

8. Gotta hit free throws

UCLA connected on 17-21 from the charity stripe, whereas Kentucky went 18-27. Gotta hit those free throws. They’re free, you know.

9. Were the Cats too full of themselves?

I’ll be honest, I was very, very confident coming in to this game. Big lights, national television, CBS Sports trumpet fanfare, etc. According to Cal, the players may have felt a little too confident as well.

“This is the first time on this stage with a team like this, with national television, starting four freshmen. Kind of showed at times.”

It really showed when it comes to passing. Kentucky had 33 assists vs. Arizona State on Monday and only 16 assists today.

“It wasn’t the same team. We had 16 assists. Why didn’t we pass it today? Because it was national television, because it was my time? Now we all look bad,” Cal said. “I mean, there were a bunch of opportunities for us to pass that we didn’t make. I told them after the game, You can’t play that way, you all look bad.”

It’s cool, I didn’t really want a 40-0 shirt anyways.

10. Marlana’s anthem was great though

I can’t end this on a bad note because it’s only December and losing to a good team is definitely not the end of the world, so here’s Marlana VanHoose’s national anthem, which was beautiful:

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.

33 Comments for Kentucky: They’re not who we thought they were (yet)

  1. onlyone
    5:47 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

    Let us all just face it this team will lose games due to lack of defense and almost no inside offense or defense. Bam not the dominating player we were hoping for, Gabriel cannot guard anybody, and a team in no way prepared for this game. For sure not what we were expecting and more bumps in the road ahead, namely UL. Cal has a lot of coaching to do.

    • Thanks Card troll.

    • onlyone
      6:55 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

      You my friend are a moron. I suppose you believe the Cats will go undefeated the rest of the year without playing defense and that is a glaring weakness of this team. I have been a Cat fan my whole life and seen lots of UK basketball. I am 68 yrs old and know there has never been or will ever be a team win the NCAA title with 4 freshmen on the floor. Remember Cal’s only title was with 3 veterans on the floor guiding the team.

    • UK Big Board Update
      8:49 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink


      Also goes by:

      Time Expired
      The Rest of the story

      Real name: Dennis Spain of Nicholasville, KY
      Occupation: negativity troll
      Calls himself “The Boss”
      Claims to be a good Christian

    • THE William Hill
      9:48 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

      There are those in the world who gain pleasure from inciting a reaction when deriding others. Those people are almost always unsuccessful in life which is why they feel they must inflict their self-loathing onto others. I actually feel sorry for these people, as they can never be truly happy.

    • onlyone
      10:20 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

      To those like Big Board who hide in their mother’s basement with likely no gainful employment, trying hard to sound better than their lives actually show and speak with animosity because or the coward they are. Hide from the truth that he is a miserable failure to and likely is a very lonely person. I truly feel sorry for you.

    • THE William Hill
      11:41 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

      onlyone – my comment was directed at you.

    • THE William Hill
      11:50 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

      Grayson Allen, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow all think you’re full of shit.

  2. sp
    6:07 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

    It’s not hard to beat UK if you are any good at all. Cal won’t change his switch everything mentality and teams will just switch us into a bad matchup or easy look every time down the court. Coaches ego will drag us down again.

    • UK Big Board Update
      8:48 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

      Hey, welcome to KSR. I haven’t seen you post on here befor.

    • trumpetguy
      10:44 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

      Right on with the switch everything comment! That puts Willis/Gabriel/Bam….yes Bam in bad matchups. I know Cal said Bam can guard smaller quicker guards, and today he did just that for a little while, with NO switch involved. Truth is, they got by him pretty easy but he was able to deflect a few shots, but still that is fools gold. Plus that puts Fox/Briscoe on the block guarding bigs, Several off the ball fouls called on them prior to today, both trying to muscle out a bigger/stronger player. I’m a big believer of running more sets for Monk, early/often, like they did for Murray last year. He became shot aggressive only with about 5-6 minutes left in the game, trailing double digits. Someone lamented Briscoe with 5 “3”s attempted, that’s because teams let him! His game is/was penetration, #note THREE out-of-bounds baseline drives. They know, (and so does he), perimeter jumpers not his strong suit. He will pass up open looks and drive into traffic (ala An. Harrison). The only person who doubts Willis’ ability to shoot is Willis! Announcers and opposing coaches both know he can stroke. If he doesn’t fire open looks, can’t play him many minutes period, because he isn’t going to rebound in traffic and his lack of lateral agility hurts UK defensively. Players dribble/drive on him with impunity. Cal knows it, Willis knows it, we all know it! He is a 40+pct 3 point shooter. Teams much rather him drive. Hence we end up with Briscoe/Fox/Hawkins, lesser shooters, firing away He absolutely has to shoot it or court gets really small.

    • runningunnin.454
      2:38 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

      Have to agree, trumpetguy, Willis’ problem is that he doesn’t move and try to get open. You’re not going to get an open look if you just stand in the corner…his man can also “guard” him without expending any energy. Maybe he’s just not a high energy person that is constant motion trying to lose his man; of course, we could set screens for him like Indiana did for Steve Alford.

  3. Sorry Tyler, but no, I have not thought about 40-0. ASU stinks, so I knew that wasn’t a real test. I won’t think about 40-0 until and unless we at least have an undefeated regular season.

  4. Oh, and Matt can split hairs all he wants about what he meant when he and the crew said UCLA can’t run with us. The fact is they said it, emphatically, numerous times, and they didn’t qualify it like he did today in the post game as far as I remember. Maybe the players being sick was a part of that, but I’ve got to steel myself against that kind of talk from now on.

    Oh well, hopefully the ship is righted soon. If not, it won’t be pretty against the Heels in Vegas.

  5. cats4eva
    7:03 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

    OnlyOne, unfortunately for Louisville they can’t shoot. I don’t see any trouble out of them. UNC on the other hand could be a problem if we don’t shore up the defense around the rim

  6. 502CodeRed
    7:13 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

    On the bright side at least the delusional “undefeated” goal is over. One less distraction.

    • UK Big Board Update
      8:46 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

      On the bright side at least the delusional “college football playoffs” goal is over. One less distraction.

      Did you see Lamar do the Heisman?

      Did you see him fumble?

    • Booby Petrino
      10:11 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

      Doesn’t every team have a 40-0 goal? If not, that’s a problem.

  7. jaws2
    11:42 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

    Hey 502CodeRed, you finally come out of hiding after having our ‘dickslap’ you in the face all day last Saturday!
    Oh, you don’t remember calling us slapdicks on every post you did last week. I guess it took a week for your face to heal. Probably your @ss too!
    Oh, and Happy Holidays!!

  8. BTownUKFan
    11:48 pm December 3, 2016 Permalink

    Seriously! Is that the best picture you can come up with for the game? A UCLA player being a punk in Rupp Arena. You’re a good writer but you turn to negative Nancy anytime the basketball or football team lose and seem to take some perverse pleasure in how badly they played. These are 18-19 year old kids cut them some slack.

  9. runningunnin.454
    2:44 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

    Hate it when somebody says a game “wasn’t that close”. A point is a point…when it was 95-92, it was “exactly” that close.
    Now, if you don’t mind, some in depth basketball analysis….I’ve often thought Steve Alford was a guy the ladies would consider to be handsome; and, I’ve wondered how it is that his son is so, well, homely.
    Well, now we know….don’t want to say she’d turn a funeral procession up an alley….but, maybe a parade up an alley

    • trumpetguy
      10:05 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

      runningunnin, UK doesn’t run much motion, more on ball screens and dribble handoffs. Anyway, Willis’ shots come off pick-n-pops and he has had numerous open looks he has passed up. All coaches tell players, “do what you do best”. That is why Briscoe drives, and Willis must heed that and fire away. Really hurts floor spacing and potential drives by teammates when he doesn’t shoot the ball. Don’t think it is a false statement to say he and Monk are the 2 best shooters (add Mulder). Monk just needs to learn shot selection and not shoot contested 3s, but I still contend those two guys along with Mulder are above average shooters and need to utilized as such. Out of bounds plays under our basket are excellent opportunities to get an open look! By the way, we are pretty bad defensively there…………

  10. Sublem
    3:24 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

    6 players being sick showed, they were nowhere as aggressive as they have been in the first 7 games. Have both teams been 100%, the outcome may have been different. So I hope we get that rematch.

  11. Aar
    6:17 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

    I suspect Cal’s got their attention now! An LSU alum friend trolled me after the game and I responded with “the better team won today. We have better athletes at every position but they have better execution and team play in December. I like where UK will be in February.” He responded with “Yuck”. I didn’t say that UCLA is one of the few teams that has more size than us at every position. Anyway, IMHO, as motivated and coachable as these guys are, I believe coach will use this game to get their heads out of the clouds and we should see the results on the court soon enough.

    The big question is whether they will learn enough, get healthy enough and have a shootaround before the UNC and UofL games. 4 minutes into the game I though “they must’ve had a bad shootaround.” I suppose no shootaround is a bad shootaround. Not to make excuses but I suspect the illnesses canceled the shootaround, accounts for them all being a half step slower than usual and explains their lack of mental sharpness. Despite that, this game put this team’s learning opportunities on full display and the coaching staff is too good not to use it to great immediate effect.

    Now, is UNC bigger than us at every position, too?

  12. roundball fool
    9:49 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

    UCLA shot better than us. A mix of great shooting by them and not enough consistent challenge from the Cats. Still, I like that we fought till the end. We’ll learn and get better.

    I’d like to see KSR get a Freddie Maggard type basketball guy/gal to break down games.

  13. Kuen
    10:00 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

    Drew says Cal has it out for Mulder – so no minutes. Fine, I can accept that. But, where was Sacha? Our bigs we’re getting abused and he didn’t get a single minute?

  14. bankerbh
    11:29 am December 4, 2016 Permalink

    Not enuf upper cllasmen to overcome the inexperience of the freshmen. We have said this way too many times though during the Cal era. They stayed w the outside shot and bypassed othe inside game even when the outside shots weren’t falling. I think the UNC and Louisville games will be the best barometer for where the team is and where they may be able to go. Unfortunately, one returning starter isn’t going to be enough in March. That is MHO and have consistently stated I am not a fan of what has become a one and done place to play basketball.

  15. Bluebloodtoo
    12:02 pm December 4, 2016 Permalink

    This game was challenging for our young cats. These cats don’t yet value defense first in winning games. They live off their offense. Their offense isn’t that good when playing a quality defense that plays together as a team. Fox is a great player, but even great players can’t do it all by themselves. Fox had 3 assists and two turnovers at the half. Play with those other four guys. Did anyone else notice how fox just left briscoe on the floor after his bad pass? Briscoe sure did. Cal will get these guys playing team defense soon hopefully. These guys still have a bit left to learn. It will take some time.

  16. keiths
    1:47 pm December 4, 2016 Permalink

    NO rim defender. Bam is the new AZUBUIKE, Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane. Fox can;t shoot past 10 feet, Briscoe can’t shoot past 3 feet. Piss poor coaching as well. How do you get outcoached by Steve Alford, for god’s sake?

    • THE William Hill
      2:22 pm December 4, 2016 Permalink

      Jesus Christ, people……

    • THE William Hill
      2:24 pm December 4, 2016 Permalink

      People like ‘keiths’ is the reason the rest of the country thinks our fanbase is full of yahoos and illogical rednecks. Alabama fans are thankful to have us.

    • runningunnin.454
      2:35 pm December 4, 2016 Permalink

      Don’t think anyone was out coached. UCLA was hot from the field..hit some ridiculous 3’s.
      Don’t sell Alford short….if you can win at New Mexico………
      One thing I’ll say; maybe should have pressed the Bruins more, didn’t look like they liked it.
      We lost; but, we sure scared the h out of Mrs Alford the last 29 sec.

  17. EdC
    9:23 am December 5, 2016 Permalink

    LOL the same people that get all annoyed at IU’s celebration of a December game are all Chicken Little over a December loss.

    It’s December … a loss that won’t matter much when it comes to tournament seeding. Issues that can be worked on were uncovered.

    None of the players are suddenly as bad as you thought they were good this time last week. Get a grip.