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Key takeaways from Kentucky’s 69-66 loss to Utah

Kentucky’s trip to Las Vegas got off to a poor start, falling to the Utah Utes by a final score of 69-66 to move to 8-2 on the year.

But how did it come to fruition? Were there any positives to focus on? Will the Cats respond?

Here are the key takeaways:

Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey led the Cats

Kentucky didn’t have a whole lot of bright spots, but two of them came in the Kentucky backcourt.

Coming off an 0-9 game against Georgia Tech, Tyrese Maxey managed a team-high 18 points to reach double figures for the first time since the Lamar Game on Nov. 25. He went 1 for 17 in his previous two games, but Maxey finished the game against Utah shooting 7 of 13 overall.

The freshman guard missed a crucial three to tie the game in the final seconds, but his total body of work was impressive.

As for Ashton Hagans, he scored in double figures a team-leading eighth time this season with 16 points to go with a game-high eight assists and a season-high four steals. He has led the Wildcats in assists in every game this season.

John Calipari has said on multiple occasions that he thinks Hagans is the best point guard in college basketball, but the team needs Maxey to get going if they want to reach any kind of serious success this season.

They got that on Wednesday evening, but unfortunately, there wasn’t much help elsewhere.

Nate Sestina made his return

After missing three games with a fractured left wrist, Nate Sestina returned to the lineup.

In nine minutes, the Bucknell graduate transfer failed to make a dent in the scoring column (0-1 shooting), but added one rebound and one block in the loss.

Calipari said after the game that Sestina likely played too many minutes and would’ve preferred to let him sit against Utah, but when the Cats fell behind early, the UK coach needed bench help.

He wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but getting him back is massive for the team’s depth moving forward both in practice and in games.

Nick Richards had his first poor performance of the year

After telling reporters last week that Nick Richards got a bit arrogant and was beginning to revert back to what we saw out of him in his first two seasons at Kentucky, the junior center had his first legitimately poor outing of the season against Utah.

Finishing with just five points on 1-3 shooting to go with four rebounds, one assist, and two blocks, Richards failed to get much of anything going on the offensive end of the floor. He simply  never looked comfortable, struggling to create space or overpower the Utah frontcourt.

Defensively, he got lost at times and gave up several easy buckets around the rim. He did finish with two blocks, but it wasn’t a great interior defensive effort from the junior center.

Cats go stay cold from deep

Going into the year, Coach Cal stressed that this team would be one of his best since he arrived in Lexington, adding that he had players that were shot makers and not just shot takers. 

But after a 2-17 performance from three for the Wildcats, Kentucky is down to 27.5% from beyond the line on the season. Going into the day, the Cats were 29% from three, which was good for 8th in the SEC and 295th in all of college basketball.

During the Calipari Era in Lexington, the Kentucky head coach has never had a team shoot less than 30% from three in a single year. As of right now, they’re on pace to be the first.

Questionable calls were aplenty

Before we get started, let me just say this is a ref-friendly website that loves the folks in stripes. It’s not an easy job to do, and errors are inevitable just about every time a team takes the floor/field/court, regardless of sport.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have questions.

Can you overturn a blocking foul and change it to a charge? Would it have been so much of a pain to review Immanuel Quickley’s two in the corner late in the second half that Calipari and his assistants were begging to get looked at?  What about the head-scratching inconsistencies on both ends of the floor? Travel violations still get called, right?


T-Mobile Arena was filled with the past, present and future

Watching Kentucky signee Devin Askew at the Tarkanian Classic on Wednesday afternoon, I noticed former Wildcat Keldon Johnson sitting next to Askew’s father.

And then walking in to T-Mobile Arena to watch the Wildcats play, Askew and Johnson entered the game together, with Isaac Humphries, Marcus Lee, Jared Vanderbilt, and Mychal Mulder coming not long after.

All of the past Wildcats sat in the same Kentucky friends and family section as Askew and his father, with the only exception being Johnson. He moved up a few rows and was closer to center court with a friend.

Even without Johnson included, the photo is pretty neat.

The road only gets more difficult moving forward, as the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes are set to head to Sin City on Saturday afternoon.

Will they respond?

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

54 Comments for Key takeaways from Kentucky’s 69-66 loss to Utah

  1. cats646
    5:38 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Thank God we have football to look forward to.

  2. JT55
    6:05 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    This may be Cals second worst team since he’s been here. Sick of watching his teams never being able to shoot the ball.

  3. dave1964
    6:12 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Is it football season yet, we have zero good bigs I knew as soon as we played a team with half way good bigs we would see how horrible ours actually are, they are SOFT and generally not good players one of Cals worst team he has put together.

  4. tmcclan16
    6:12 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Oh wow getting crushed by another unranked team. Down 18 at one point! Face it this team is not very good. We have some nice pieces but as I though before the season the inside is not good the wings are young it’s gonna be a long season. Ohio state is going to rout this team Saturday if they play like that. Let’s hope for a quick turnaround go cats.

  5. Righteous1
    6:19 am December 19, 2019 Permalink


  6. sp
    7:18 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Bunch of first and second round pros on this team. LOL. There’s not one pro ready guy on this team. I wonder how many of our incoming guys are going to de-commit since none of these current guys will be leaving as we once thought.

    • DelrayCat
      1:02 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Actually it will be the other way around. The question is how many of these un-ready guys take a chance and leave anyway going un-drafted (Brooks, Whitney?)…or even transfer (Juzang and IQ?).

  7. UKLugo
    7:42 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Was not a good sign when Sestina had to come off the bench early after having practiced only once since his injury. EJ and Nick must be better or we wont get past the 2nd rd of the tournament.

  8. Irish son
    7:48 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    The key take away is , this is a typical Cal team, they can’t shoot. And Doron Lamb isn’t coming through that door. We are going to lose at least 10 games. Cal has lost his edge. He’s getting his ass kicked on the recruiting trail by coach K and isn’t a good enough coach to win without top 5 talent. And I went and watched Cam’ron Fletcher play last night. He isn’t good. He’s a 6’6 Nick Richards. Can’t shoot, can’t dribble and isn’t even the best player on his team. The best player is a guy named Kobe Clark

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:21 am December 19, 2019 Permalink


    • StillBP
      8:56 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Apparently K isn’t good enough to win with top 5 talent

    • bosch8184
      9:14 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Irish was there watching Cam’ron play last night as well. Was Cal on the sauce when he watched him play? Guy has zero discernible actual basketball skills. Hopefully he wants to do nothing but play hard on defense in practice because he is light years away.

      Nick Richards was my exact comparison sitting there during it. Richards was also a soft lazy uninterested player at the COP when he was here too.

    • DelrayCat
      1:04 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Saying Cal is getting kicked on the recruiting trail is not accurate. Aside from last year (at #3), Cal’s had the #1 or #2 class every year he’s been here.

  9. Aar
    7:54 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    For the first time in my life, I decided a U.K. game was so bad that I didn’t watch the entire game. Sleep became more important with the Cats down 15 at the under 16 timeout. Bill Walton is a lousy color guy and his sidekick does not redeem him. Love that the Cats came back from that. Regardless, I thought the play was really bad by both teams and each of the Cats looked a step slow. I think they’ve been practicing too hard, were jet lagged, affected by the late start and thinking the game, not playing it. When Cal indicated that they were going to play Utah differently than usual, I started to be concerned about this kind of hot mess. Not making excuses, just calling what I saw. This happens every December and it sucks but they grow out of it. At least the game on Saturday is at a good time and they will be adjusted to the time zone.

  10. chrislarkey
    7:59 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    This game was horrible. We ZERO BIGS. Right now I would rather be tortured watching rachael maddow and don lemon than Ky.

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:24 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      The good news is you are free to watch Rachel Maddow, and Don Lemon, or you could go back to school and learn to write. Names are supposed to be captialized by the way. Do you know what that means?

    • DelrayCat
      1:05 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      At least then you might learn something rather than being lied to or watching Faux News.

    • 4everUKBlue
      1:42 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      You watch the news? It’s all lies.

  11. chrislarkey
    8:30 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    I’m sorry about punctuation. God forbid I do it again. I may get impeached.

    • buckeyecat
      9:37 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      What does captialized mean?

  12. StuckinLville
    8:36 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    It’s ridiculous that one of the highest paid coaches in the country keeps getting out coached and gladly admits it. I really don’t understand it. Seeing how well Nnaji, Stewart, Carey, Hurt, etc are playing makes me cringe. I think Cal finally did learn from his recruiting mistakes because of the class we have coming in next year, but if he can’t do any better I really think it’s time to part ways. With that said, I know some people are thinking the sky is falling just like they did when we lost to Seton Hall, but it’s still a long season. I believe Cal can get these guys right by March, but at the same time, he should NEVER be out coached with the money he makes.

    • StillBP
      8:59 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Part ways LOL Just because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you have to be perfect or the best all the time. Ask Coach K…do you think Duke should part ways with him? If so, I guess UNC should definitely part ways with Roy.

    • MrPioneer
      9:00 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Imagine being dumb enough to think it’s time to part ways with John Calipari.

    • bosch8184
      9:16 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Coach K wins National Championships (plural)…Calipari needs the #1 and #2 picks in the draft to barely hang on to win one.

    • StillBP
      9:30 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      K had 3 top 10 picks last year…how’d he do with that?

    • runningunnin.454
      9:52 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      BP, Coach K won the ESPN National Championship last year; the trophy presentation was after the first game of the year…did you miss that? Hee Haw.

    • StillBP
      9:55 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      rg he wins that every year. They should just name the trophy after him! haha

    • StuckinLville
      10:56 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      StillBP, look at how many games over the years he is out coached at. How often do you see Coach K out coached? When you know you are being out coached, yet you continue to get out coached, it’s a problem. And it also means maybe you aren’t worth the money after all. So Pioneer, imagine being dumb enough to not understand that. We have watched UK falter down the stretch many times because of this and nothing changes. The definition of this is called insanity.

    • 4everUKBlue
      1:06 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      I saw him out coached in two tournament games last season, he would’ve lost to UCF if not for the refs and that was with what ESPN called the greatest recruiting class in NCAA history and with the greatest college player of all time. Let’s see he was also out coached the year Bagley played, also the year South Carolina beat them in the round of 32, I could go on if my memory was better. The big difference is everyone cuts K way more slack than they do Cal.

    • MrPioneer
      2:43 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      My question to you is this, Stuckinlville: who would you suggest is a better coach for Kentucky, right now, than Coach Cal? Because I’m looking around, and there is not one person out there better for the job.

  13. UKfansNKY
    8:44 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Could be a Loooooooooooong year! The one & done SUCKS!!!! Growing up in Lexington and a HUGE Big Blue Fan, don’t even get excited about KY Basketball anymore over the past few years! Can’t get to know Players, watch them develop. All selfish play anymore! College basketball as a whole has really gone down-hill, imo.

    Is it College Football Season yet?

    GO CATS!!!!

  14. Bluebloodtoo
    8:57 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    The officiating in this game was weird… very weird. So many head scratchers…. also, I’m not a big fan of the analyst team either. They had some funny moments, but there were more annoying moments than funny ones.

    • Boro Boy
      11:54 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      2-17 from 3 ….from a team Cal said preseason could possibly 1 of his best from the perimeter ….sounds like he has a cataract problem

  15. secrick
    9:03 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Just win Sat. and all is forgiven. You have to make shots or your going to get beat. Cal can’t make a shot to save his life, oh hell i forgot he’s on the bench.

  16. BowdenQB4ever
    9:09 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    This was just insulting to the fans. I think Calipari has already seen his best days here. Our program is better than being a revolving door for marginal NBA talent. If he can’t get the elite talent every year, he needs to change his strategy. We have to run an offense, especially if he can’t get shooters to Lexington.

  17. lexslamman
    9:11 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Everyone has up and down years. This looks like it might be a down year, but with the way Cal’s teams work it’s always too early to say until we’re a couple of weeks into the second semester. Remember also that they haven’t really been able to practice 5-on-5 for pretty much the entire season. It’s hard to be patient in the 24-hour-news, instant response fan culture we’ve grown (thanks in part to KSR) around our basketball program, but there are still very large and mostly silent contingents of fans who appreciate the process that Cal goes through with such young teams every year and how flexible he is as a coach.

    Bill Walton was definitely the highlight last night. Keep on Truckin’, Grateful Red!

  18. bosch8184
    9:19 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    The only person getting impeached should be Calipari for his scheduling. Such an insult to the true fans that have been buying season tickets all these years with these neutral court games.

    Bring back the IU & UNC home and home games and get rid of these dog$h*t neutral court games.

    Utah at 11:00pm EST in Las Vegas? Horrible.

    • sec211
      9:37 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      I agree. Season ticket holder of over 20 years, but I will not be renewing next year. The home schedule is ridiculous. Plus, the tickets I pay so much for, UK turns around and undercuts me and sells them $20 cheaper the week of the game. Hell, they even offered them free with a football ticket purchase earlier this year. I’m finished as a season ticket holder.

  19. Southky
    9:23 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    It is what it is. Probably gonna be a down year. It happens. Poor shooting team with a soft front court. Let’s drop expectations and just see what happens. These guys might surprise us. You never know, especially this year.

    • classof68
      10:11 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Seems like we’ve had a down year since 2015. I forgot what being in a FF feels like. Cal just isn’t recruiting at the level he used to. I wish he would get a recruiter on his staff. The ones he has now apparently don’t know how to evaluate talent. They love to get these athletic dudes and it doesn’t seem to matter if they can create their own shot or shoot well. We get guys outside the top 10. It’s hard enough to win with freshmen who are in the top 10. I just don’t think Cal has the fire in his belly anymore. But he sure does make a lot of money so I guess that makes him a success.

  20. eddiesuttonsliver
    10:07 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    you can tell some of these folks are just foaming at the mouth to get in the comment section after a loss. step back from the ledge.

  21. Heavy C
    10:37 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Heres a key for you.. and you can apply it to every team except 2011 and 2012…..We Cant Shoot! Same thing every year. I would contend that this simple aspect of the game has cost us AT LEAST 3 more championships in the last 10 years. Call it oversimplifying if you want……But prove me wrong.

    • DelrayCat
      1:09 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      Ironically, there are several UK alums not on those teams that are now some of the best shooters in the NBA…Booker, Murray, Herro…even Davis and Towns are shooting over 40%. It is an acquired skill. Takes time and practice.

  22. jim tom
    10:48 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Once again can’t shoot. Nothing but elite athletes who are not very good at basketball.

    • bigblue2284
      11:11 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

      I’m so tired of hearing about elite athletes. This team is not full of elite athletes. Who on this team is an “Elite Athlete”? They cannot shoot and they aren’t overly athletic. Have you seen this team try and complete a lob pass? It’s painful to watch.

  23. UKrailbird
    11:13 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Only takeaway required is shoot 20% from 3 instead of 12% and you have a win. Where is our shooter????

  24. VirginiaCat
    11:21 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    Cal has won one national championship in 24 years, with arguably the best overall talent ever assembled. He simply does less with more. His first six years at Kentucky were impressive when he had a market on the best talent in the country. Since 2015, he has mismanaged the talent that we do have and has embarrassed the program with humiliating losses. I feel sorry for the players. They are capable of playing so much better if they had proper coaching. Cal is a ready-aim-shoot kind of guy who coaches like he talks – confusing.

    • 4everUKBlue
      1:08 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      You want to talk less with more you should be talking about K. Don’t make me do the research for you VaginaCat.

    • CrystalBall
      4:25 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

      VirginiaCat. You may be correct. But other CBB coaches don’t feel that way. If you are right, others in his profession are wrong.

  25. bbn606
    11:33 am December 19, 2019 Permalink

    That’s ok, look at the day that the football team had. Best day ever!

  26. The Professor
    1:02 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

    As soon as we got down a few points we started playing hurry up offense and never got into a rhythm. Guys were throwing up low % shots all night early in the clock. Utah didn’t have anyone who could guard EJ but did we feed him the ball? No, because the guards played selfishly the entire game.

  27. CwoodCat
    1:39 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

    I’m not sure I ever really slept…I was so mad. Should’ve never turned it on.

    This team is the 2013 team remade:

    Maxey = Archie Goodwin 2.0…can score a lot of points but has to take a ton of shots to do it and most will be bad, out of rhythm with the offense, out of control, and might as well be a turnover. He scored 18 points on 17 shots last night…or something close to that.

    Richards = not the shot blocker that Noel was, but limited offensively. Doesn’t have the defensive upside that Noel had and isn’t nearly the athlete. He’s a better jump shooter, but do you want your 7 footer being a great jump shooter and a lousy rebounder/finisher at the rim and a defensive liability.

    EJ = Wiltjer… Kyle was a good shooter when was on a team that required players to play off of him, but when he was guarded he was really limited…EJ is similar… a big that can’t play inside, bends at the waist for loose balls, is slow, and can easily be taken out of a game. When he had that deflection out beyond the 3 and the player coming from the free throw line beat him to the ball…that screamed Wiltjer to me. HOW CAN YOU BE THAT SLOW!!???

    Sestina = Uncle Julius…guy that had some success against far worse competition but is athletically in way over his head. Can score and do a few things, but will give up as much, if not more than he gets.

    Maxey, Whitney = Poythress…look like Tarzan, play like Jane and might as well be 4/5 sometimes on offense. Disappears completely at times. Also Whitney has Jon Hood’s luck on defense…everyone scores over him, even when he defends well.

    And the list could go on and on.

    Hagans is really the only one that you can’t put on that team. He’s a good point guard and an excellent defender…but again has some serious limitations in his offensive game.

    This is not a good team at all…but won’t have the “we lost our best player to a knee injury” excuse that the 2013 NIT team did.

    With all that said…I care way to much about 18 years olds throwing a ball thru a hoop. I am confessing so that in the hopes that I stop letting a game played by kids 20 years younger than me affect me this much.

  28. Han
    4:13 pm December 19, 2019 Permalink

    When this team is much better in March, be sure to look back to these comments at all of the NIT predictions and such.