In the past year, I’ve been to Knoxville to cover three Kentucky games — two basketball, one football — and the Cats have lost all three. Matt, I think it’s time to stop sending me to Knoxville. As I wake up this morning to make the drive back down I-40 for hopefully the last time in an official capacity, I don’t feel much better about Kentucky’s 82-80 loss to Tennessee. Sure, it’s only January and yes, this team was bound to lose a stupid game on the road, but what the heck happened to the high-flying Cats we all know and love? That group last night certainly wasn’t them.
While I see what the free breakfast downstairs has to offer and load up the car, try to make some sense of the loss with these leftovers.
1. What the heck is going on with Isaiah Briscoe?
Two weeks ago, Isaiah Briscoe could do no wrong. The sophomore heroically saved Kentucky from an upset on the road at Vandy, prompting me to eat some crow and write the “Isaiah Briscoe is the leader Kentucky needs” piece I’ve been waffling on all season. Maybe all of the praise from the media went to Briscoe’s head because he’s been a different player ever since. Over the last three games, Briscoe is 9-28 for 23 points, 12 assists, and 11 turnovers. To his credit, Briscoe had a team-high 14 rebounds in last night’s loss, but there’s clearly something up with him, a point driven home when Briscoe missed a wide open layup late in the game, shots he used to make in his sleep.
“When he missed a breakaway layup you’re kind of like, ‘Are you OK?’ Like, I’ve never seen that,” Cal said.
2. Briscoe’s teammates are noticing it too
There’s been some disturbing body language going on with this group right now, which is another post for a later time, but it was especially noticeable when Briscoe failed to attack when UK had numbers when a Tennessee player was down. Malik Monk called him out for it:
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) January 25, 2017
Thankfully, Briscoe’s teammates rallied around him on the next play, so I don’t think there’s any bad blood, just frustration. It’s clear Briscoe’s frustrated with himself, too, if you read the Tweet leaves:
gotta pull thru this zay ðŸ‘¥
— Slim Bz (@ZayBriscoe) January 25, 2017
3. The numbers show how odd this loss was
How bizarre was Kentucky’s performance? Just look at the stat sheet:
- UK’s 80 points were its third fewest in a game this year
- Kentucky shot 42 percent from the field (25-60), its worst output in a SEC game this year
- Kentucky scored 34 first-half points — tying its season low (vs. Michigan State — Nov. 15, 2016) and shot a first-half season-low 34 percent on 11 of 32 from the field
UK was down by as many as 11 in the second half, the second largest deficit the Cats have faced this season (largest was 14 vs. UCLA)
Ugh. Just ugly.
4. This team needs to be more like Tom Brady
There’s a sentence I thought I’d never write, but in the postgame press conference, John Calipari said he shared Brady’s message about sacrificing individual success for the livelihood of the team with his players, but clearly, some of them didn’t listen.
“Tom Brady made a statement that makes–that these guys aren’t listening to and I told it to them last night. Doing what’s right for the team sometimes may not be right for you, but that’s how you win. You do what’s right for the team, not necessarily what’s right for you as an individual player and I’m not getting through to some guys.”
I guess that trip to the AFC Championship really hit home with Cal, huh? Somebody keep an eye on the managers to make sure they don’t deflate any balls.
5. And remind them to wipe the floor while you’re at it
Another storyline I didn’t expect: sweat-gate. Slick floors were a problem all night, but especially in front of UK’s bench, where the managers apparently weren’t wiping up the sweat properly. Calipari lit into them after Malik Monk fell badly late in the second half, which cost the Cats an opportunity to seize momentum and win the game.
“I asked one of our guys to wipe the floor — I saw it — and he let the guy with the thing (mop) move the water around. I asked our guy to wipe that up and that’s why I went crazy. I said specifically, ‘Go get that,’ because I saw it. Hey, he slipped we lose.”
Speaking of Malik, he tried to do too much at the end, but…
6. Had this gone in…
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) January 25, 2017
I might be writing a different post right now. I mean, good grief. Still, as Calipari clearly yelled at him, stop trying to be a playmaker and just be a shot taker.
7. Here’s Calipari’s entire presser if you want to watch
8. At least Villanova and Kansas lost too
If there’s any solace, it’s that #1 Villanova and #2 Kansas also lost last night, so the pundits won’t just be talking about us today. Also, Kansas lost to West Virginia by 16, a much bigger margin; granted, West Virginia’s way better than Tennessee, but still…Imma take these silver linings where I see ’em!
9. The players are already turning the page
While traveling back from Knoxville late last night, it looked the Cats were already closing the book on one we’d all like to forget:
Don't think about it too much ðŸ™ðŸ¿
— UPMÎ›Nâ„¢ (@WenyenGabriel) January 25, 2017
Short Term Memory â™ ï¸
— Bam Adebayoâ„¢ðŸŒ¹ (@Bam1of1) January 25, 2017
I’m going to do the same to wrap up this post.
10. One week from Signing Day
Believe it or not, one week from now, the “faxes” will be rolling and Kentucky 2017 class will become official. That makes this week one of the longest of the year for Mark Stoops and staff, who continue to make the rounds to keep their current commits on board. Yesterday, it was three-star offensive tackle Naasir Watkins:
— Naasir Watkins (@naasir_wat) January 25, 2017
If you missed it before the game last night, do yourself a favor and check out Jack Pilgrim’s wrap-up of how the Cats are doing in the final days before the ink hits the paper. As is, Kentucky’s 2017 class would be the best in the program’s history, but with two spots left, it could get even better.
Radio in an hour…