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RECAP: Kansas puts Kentucky’s weaknesses on blast; Where do we go from here?


The day started off so well. Kentucky fans put in an awesome showing at “College GameDay,” Lexington was buzzing, and Rupp had that unique energy it does before big games. After a stirring intro by Michael Buffer, fans even set a world record for the loudest indoor crowd cheer, led by Steve Zahn, who worked the building into a frenzy. All of the stars were aligned for a special, special night, especially when Kentucky sprinted out to a 12-point lead midway through the first half. The game was theirs.

Unfortunately, as has been the problem way too often lately, there was no follow through. Kentucky fell apart with five minutes left in the first half and never really recovered, losing to Kansas by a final score of 79-73. It was the Cats’ second loss in a row, and although Kansas may currently be ranked #2 in the country, it felt way worse than the score reflected.

I guess we have to talk about it, don’t we?

Where was the defense?!

I remember sitting in Memorial Coliseum before this season and listening to John Calipari tell reporters that this may be his best defensive team yet at Kentucky. That seems like a cruel joke after watching the Jayhawks drive right at the basket over and over again.

“This was, we got out-toughed and we didn’t guard the way we need to guard, which is all curable,” Cal said. “We’ve got to be a better defensive team than we are.”

Do we really? When talking about defensive woes, we knew going in that Josh Jackson was a mismatch, but good grief. The talented freshman had 20 points and 10 rebounds, the only double-double for either team tonight. Simply put, Kentucky could not stop him, and as Derek Willis said afterwards, when the Cats were up by double digits, they couldn’t put their foot on Kansas’ throat.

“I just think we didn’t play winning basketball down the stretch,” Willis said. “Up to a point I think we had them down 10 points maybe? It was looking real good, and you could feel the energy. It just felt like we wanted to break away. Then we just let them back in the game, and they started getting their confidence back thinking they could play with us. That’s just how it goes and they ended up coming up with the right plays. That’s why they won the game.”


Kansas’ zone stymied Kentucky

Meanwhile, Kansas had few problems stopping Kentucky in the second half. It’s no coincidence that when Kansas switched to the zone, the Cats started struggling. The Jayhawks used a mix of 2-3 and triangle and two to stymie the Cats, leading to one of the lowest point totals of the season. When asked about it afterwards, Bill Self said his zone wouldn’t win any awards, but it did an adequate job of shutting down Malik Monk.

“I think it was important,” Self said of the zone. “I don’t know if it was important in transition defense as much, but maybe. But certainly being able to shake Malik and eliminate him scoring off screens, those types of things. They’re not going to be any educational tapes off that zone tonight but I do think we played it pretty well. I thought we shaded shooters and did a pretty good job with it. It helped. We would not have won this unless we switched up. ”

Malik Monk didn’t score for over 25 minutes

The most obvious issue for Kentucky tonight? Malik Monk scored 12 points in the first 12 minutes of the game, and then went scoreless until the 3:21 mark in the second half. By my horrible math, that’s over 25 minutes that Monk didn’t score. Kansas’ zone stifled Monk, and as Calipari said afterwards, when Monk’s not scoring, that’s bad, bad news for the Cats.

“They did a good job of shading toward him, whether it was the zone or they — the triangle and two, they put a man on him, and then again, like I told the staff after, we can’t go eight minutes without him shooting the ball,” Cal said.

A season-high 17 turnovers

Kentucky tied a season high tonight in a bad way, turning the ball over 17 times, leading to 21 points for Kansas. For a team that’s prided itself on transition, the first five minutes excluded, Kentucky sure didn’t look like it tonight.

“And again, 17 turnovers. Again, 10 from our guards. We have been a low, low turnover team until the last three games. Now, all of a sudden we’re averaging 17 turnovers a game, that shouldn’t be who we are,” Cal said.


Derek Willis played his butt off

Derek gave up one huge rebound at the end of the game, but he also kept Kentucky in it most of the second half. Willis had a season-high 18 points, including five threes, and when everyone else was fumbling, he was the one to steady the ship. Unfortunately, Calipari focused on the negative in the postgame remarks.

“Missed a couple rebounds. But I left him in because I felt we needed his shooting. And you know, you know he’s going to give a little bit up defensively and rebounding, but you’re hoping he can make enough shots to make this thing close. And I thought he did a good job on the offensive end, but those rebounds were — and it’s just you and a guy and either he gets it or you get it and you got to fight.”

I love Cal, but Willis’ missed rebound was far from this team’s biggest issue tonight. After the game, Willis once again said he’s worried about his teammates’ discipline and lack of communication on the court, which he’s voiced concern about for several weeks. Suddenly, those comments are haunting.

What now?

A one-seed looks out of the question, unless the rest of college basketball continues to fall on its face. Even a two-seed looks doubtful given the current trend. Will this end up being a great story, ala Aaron Harrison and the 2014 squad?

“I can remember in 2014, we were dying and then they got it at one point and all of a sudden we took off,” Calipari said. “This team came together a little bit faster, yet you find out all the execution stuff that I’ve been talking about will come back and haunt you.”

Yeah, March is still a ways away and yeah, there’s time, but man, tonight sucked. When asked by our own Nick Roush after the game how tonight’s loss and the loss to Tennessee were similar, Calipari said as much.

“They stink,” Cal said. “How about that?”

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.

60 Comments for RECAP: Kansas puts Kentucky’s weaknesses on blast; Where do we go from here?

  1. ScoggDog
    10:10 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    Where do we go from here ?

    Somewhere between the Sweet Sixteen and Round of 32.

    But Draft Night will be a blast, I’m sure.

  2. KYcats11
    10:14 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink


    • KYcats11
      11:37 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

      I’m just kidding. It’s rediculous that people are hating on calipari so much. We would be dissapointed about losing to the #2 ranked team by 6 about 6 years ago. Calm down people. We have time.

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      7:50 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Well, Fire Cal comments are stupid…but Cal does say when we lose to blame him. And there are plenty of reasons to blame him this time. This team sucks at defense and free throws. That is on the coach.

    • catsarerunnin
      8:20 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Yes every coach should be blamed when a player misses a free throw or chooses not to play defense as instructed…

    • dakich is stupid
      9:26 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      The bench is not utilized enough for the star players. I’ve heard it is a great teaching tool.

  3. catsfan27
    10:21 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    It’s seems like over reactions are a common occurrence these days! We lost to the second ranked team in the nation. It happens, granted it was at home, but everyone is panicking much too quickly. The tourney isn’t played on “home courts”, and our best performances this season in neutral site games. A few things need to be corrected, and most of it is effort. This can be a championship team still. Posts like this one sound so pessimistic, intentional or not.


  4. 3 fan
    10:23 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    You forgot Bam starting 2-8 from FT line

    You can beat a zone by pushing the damn ball

    And we have NO bench outside Willis. How are Humphries and Sasha so bad?

  5. justaguyinthebackrow
    10:24 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    I know we all love homegrown talent, and no we didn’t just lose the game because of Willis, but he had a lot more problems than just 1 missed rebound. There were a few missed rebounds and a couple open 3s given up in the final minutes alone. Willis had some good plays on both ends but he got in his head like he has many times this year and froze up. He definitely wasn’t the only one.

    And if you’re really a UK fan and think Cal should go, There’s a lot you need to learn since you obviously just woke up for the first time since April 1998.

    • KYcats11
      11:34 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

      U idiot, Willis is a bit reason we were in the game

    • KYcats11
      10:48 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      big not bit

    • Jack Nicklaus
      7:59 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Throwing Willis under the bus?? If it wasn’t for him, we would have lost by 15. He kept us in the game! His defense is no worse than any of the others and he can block a shot or two. Due to our defense plan, he constantly has to guard smaller, quicker players that are told to drive to the rim. Not many 4s anywhere that can do that.

    • catsarerunnin
      8:24 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      You’re right. There needs to be a rule change that says players only guard other players who are the same size. It’s pure folly to ask a big dude to guard a little dude or vise versa.

    • dakich is stupid
      9:32 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      I think cal has always had a rim protector and we don’t have one this year. I don’t think cal should be let go, just wish his assistant coaches would be more assertive on getting cal to pull players out of the game for teaching moments instead of yelling on the sideline like an abusive father.

    • Jack Nicklaus
      9:56 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      No rule change, but the folly is expecting it it be consistently successful.

  6. SanDiegoCats
    10:30 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    Seems like effort. We’re up 12 first half. About to run away with it. Then we just start playing slow. No reason not to win at home.

  7. AGSlater
    10:38 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    Players first program guys. This is a AAA nba program now. The good players only worry about what the scouts are thinking and the mediocre players are scared Cal is going to bench them. Slim chance we win title this year and next year will be even worse with literaly all freshman once again. Cal is Tubby with more final fours. He wont win any more titles with freshman.

    • justaguyinthebackrow
      10:48 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

      Did you even watch the Tubby years? You say more final fours like it’s no big deal. Tubby couldn’t even make a final four without Rick’s boys. IDK, maybe you prefer 60 point games.

    • AGSlater
      11:25 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

      He had really good teams 2000-2004. Just ran into bad luck like Cal ran into good luck with his mediocre teams

    • catsarerunnin
      10:51 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

      ^^^ this all day long. Get off the ledge folks. It’s January not March.

    • I think Tubby did a great coaching job in 98, but I still agree with you to a great extent on that one, justaguy.

  8. Rixter
    11:05 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    It’s ‘stymie’
    That’s all I’ve got. Every other word is true.

  9. CwoodCat
    11:08 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    Why are we not talking about playing Diallo more? Seems like there should be more pressure to play him. From what everyone says about him, he has the reputation of having an incredible motor, being a great on ball/perimeter defender, and a strong finisher in traffic. Granted I don’t go to practices, but from what I hear…sounds remarkably similar to MKG/Liggins. This teams currently lacks a true rim protector and a perimeter lock down defender. Could eliminate 50% of the problem. At the very least you can play he and Briscoe and then Zak doesnt have to try and defend guys that are 6’6″ or 6’7″. Anyone else see this???

    • AGSlater
      11:24 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

      Cal is too stubborn. Gonna be a shame when he leaves after this year for draft

    • CwoodCat
      11:35 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

      You’re right…it is a shame. Especially when so many teams are learning to exploit us on the defensive end of the floor. Kansas basically watched and replicated what UT did. Spread it out and drive it or switch until you get a bigger 3/4 on briscoe/Willis and then shoot over them. Seems almost crazy to call fox a defensive liability, but it seems as if that’s the case. He just gets pushed and driven out of the way. What if you played Briscoe @ the 1, Monk @ the 2, and Diallo at the 3…or play fox @ 1, monk 2/3,
      Briscoe 3, and Diallo 3/4. Play him like we did liggins. Put a bigger defensive minded player on smaller guards and force them to drive around or shoot over him. Liggins and MKG effected so many perimeter shots or turned drivers into shooters.

    • chris43
      3:22 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Yes! He does have that reputation! Fox also had one of a very good defender and elite driver. BRISCOE also had the “reputation” of being an “elite scorer” but that’s in high school. College ball is naturally bigger, faster, stronger. The small as pro is compared to college. I love Cal and always have but its getting old. They’re young players….yup! Sure are but that’s what you recruit yearly. Simply put teams adjust and we don’t! I’m not sure if it’s stubbornness on Cal’s part or what but our team doesn’t adjust to changes well. It’s all “drive and react” basketball. Cal said it himself: “Do I really have to call plays for you to give Bam the ball?” Umm would it be such a bad idea? Ya know call some players like other coaches do! “Coach” the “players”! Call some plays for Bam! Call some plays for Monk! Run him off screen for open shots! Call some “clear out” type plays for Fox and even Briscoe! I love UK basketball I just have a hard time understanding it lately. Call me crazy but you give another coach (not gonna mention his name….and a few others) this type of talent and by this time in the year he’d be mopping the floor with teams! It’s very sad but true.

    • kenny
      9:40 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      That coach you speak of has been at UL since 01 and only has 3 ff and 1 ship. Cal has 4 ff and 1 ship in half the time.

    • chris43
      5:56 pm January 29, 2017 Permalink

      I don’t care about “Final Four” appearances The goal is to win the championship! He also does it with far less talent. How many NBA players are on his roster? Sad and I hate it….but TRUE

    • dakich is stupid
      9:42 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      I believe the young players are VERY stubborn. They still take plays off. Got to bench em, drive that message home. You can’t take plays off. If that new kid leaves after this season without ever getting into the game, I will have to agree that cal has turned UK into a D-league team.

  10. ukeasy
    11:08 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    At the end of the day. Calipari isn’t worried about winning individual games. If he was, he would make adjustments and game plans to execute against specific types of teams. Instead he consistently pushes his type of play which does not always fit his teams, nor does it fit a game plan that will always win. Point blank…. Calipari will knowingly get out coached to stay with his game plan. It sucks when it doesn’t work out.

  11. Rixter
    11:17 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    Bam struggles mightily to score if he can’t dunk. When he moves 2 – 3 feet from the basket, he is out of his range.
    Bam has 63 dunks this year. He has 96 FG in 146 FG attempts overall. That means he has 33 non-dunk FGs for the entire year, and is shooting, 33 of 83 on non-dunks.

  12. runningunnin.454
    11:42 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    Take another drink, folks. If it makes you feel any better,
    Duke lost this week, N. Carolina lost today, UCLA lost to USC, #11 Butler lost at home to unranked Georgetown, #6 Florida State lost, #14 Notre Dame lost, #10 Oregon will lose to unranked Colorado.
    And, as I’ve insisted before, the SEC is not that bad;
    SEC Big 12 challenge ended up 5-5 and our 3rd best team wasn’t in it.
    W. Va. barely beat Texas A&M, #5 Baylor barely beat Ole MIss, and Florida slaughtered Oklahoma.
    Happens to everybody.

  13. ukeasy
    11:51 pm January 28, 2017 Permalink

    Monk and Fox are SOFT!!! They are offensive players. They’re combined bad defense is killing this team.

    • Luether
      12:37 am January 30, 2017 Permalink

      Yeah, but they’re far from the only ones soft on D…

  14. chris43
    12:04 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Kills me to say it but if we continue to play like this we won’t go far in the tournament. A lot of fans say looks at opponents shooting percentage for the game (hence saying we played good defense). I say WATCH THE GAME and you’ll clearly see that we do not! KANSAS missed a ton of open shots. If they were hitting we would have got beaten badly at home. A lot of it is effort plays! Other teams just seem to want it more lately. Add on stupid turnovers and not hitting free throws and its a recipe for getting beat.

  15. TBW3011
    12:18 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Our opponents have televisions. They have figured out how to play us and adjusted accordingly. Our coach isn’t willing to look in the mirror and make the adjustments he needs to. Glad he told the staff that Monk can’t go 8 minutes without a shot AFTER the game though. That’s some incredible insight and awareness right there.

    • dakich is stupid
      9:49 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Cal is pretty stubborn! Let’s blame the non-NBA players for little mistakes but ignore the fact that ur PG got his ass handed to him and monk looks like a part time player that doesn’t have to play defense. I don’t blame the kids, it’s the coaches job to teach them. If the players are going straight to the NBA they have a longggg leash. Everyone else, not so much.

    • Jack Nicklaus
      10:11 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Preach it brother Dakich

  16. [email protected]
    2:45 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Coach’s have figured out how to slow the Cats down. It appears it may cost them a few offensive rebounds but it’s worth it to keep the Cats from running.

  17. pillsboy
    3:13 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Cal is too proud to play multiple defenses. He is full of shit don’t come here if u want to play zone bs. I have said it for years he will not win multiple ships with mostly freshman. Coach k might but he won’t the refs hate him and they need all the help they can get just as coach k gets. I love Cal great guy and great coach but I want ships not number one classes. That isn’t the measuring stick!

  18. StevieGotLoose
    7:56 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Where was the defense? This team can’t play defense because they are lazy or brainless. When have they played defense this year against a decent team? The blowouts against the scrub teams was nothing more than a mirage. This team is all built around Monk getting 30 a game. He is not capable of carrying this team. The good teams shut him down. He is lazy and just wants to shoot jump shots. Where is the team speed on defense? They can’t play unless they are running and gunning. Monk is the only outside threat and he can’t handle the pressure nor can Willis. Willis has totally regressed from last year. He was a starter last year and now he is on the bench. Fox and Monk are 2 of the worst defensive guards you’ll ever see. The every man for himself offense, otherwise known as the dribble drive or players first offense does not work against any team who plays defense or any type of zone. If you are unhappy now, wait for next year. The guards coming in can’t shoot either. I really don’t think that Cal will hang # 9 before he retires because the decent coaches have him figured out.

    • Jack Nicklaus
      8:10 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Totally regressed? Did you watch the game? If it wasn’t for Derek we would have been crushed. How about being asked to guard a smaller/quicker player 28′ from the basket. That is not a recipe for success. Other teams stretch us out and then drive the basket, no matter who is guarding them. We can’t stop it. No one on this team can. Yet…that is our strategy…the whole game…no matter what. Blaming Willis for our problems is total BS!

  19. WatchutalkinboutWillis
    7:57 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    I wish Cal would change things up…when Kansas climbed back into that game I wish he would have quit the three guard lineup and put Gabriel, Willis, and Bam, with two guards and played a zone defense. Why not try it?

    • Jack Nicklaus
      8:15 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      I agree. I have been asking the same thing…the double-stretch 4 lineup. Offensively it has looked pretty good the few times they tried it.

    • catsarerunnin
      8:27 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      We all should be on Cal’s speed dial in case he needs in game advice.

  20. roundball fool
    8:33 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    I’m hoping this is just a hiccup. Still, I’m concerned that we are regressing across all phases of the game. Maybe Cal should stop the sleep overs and make ’em wear Duke warm up gear?

  21. Bill the Cat
    8:44 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Once again, Cal’s insistence to play exclusive man defense rears it’s ugly head. The ‘fix’ everybody seeks is simple:
    1) start switching up your defense. Bam and Willis get into mis-matches with the man when they switch on screens. For some reason Fox is the fastest person on the floor but can’t keep anyone from driving into the lane. Monk? Well, he doesn’t play defense…..getting first foul with a minute to go in the game? That alone tells you he stays away from defense and rebounding. Kansas went to a diamond and 2…..why we can’t play zones, box/1, diamond/2 must be bc he can’t teach it or he’s too areogant to teach it because this team needs it.

    2). Sit Monk when he throws the next wild-ass pass trying to complete some spectacular play in traffic or at a critical time in the game. At least take him out to chew on him a little. I’m growing tired of his circus shots 1-on-3 also.

    3). Fox has to do better with the ball. Start subbing Hawk for him more. Same rule as above for Monk.

    4). Put Bam’s butt in the gym and work on free throws and passing quickly out of the post upon double teams. Just bc the play is run for you doesn’t mean you HAVE TO shoot it. (Applies to Monk too)

    All said, these are AAU players still. We’ve seen them play good early but opposing coaches have caught up and now scheme for us correctly. Only a coach can coach out of this. Cal needs to come down off his pedestal, get to work coaching. This team has the talent like Wall/Cousins team. Anything less than a final four and I blame the coach bc the things above are fixable!

    • roundball fool
      9:17 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Good post. I’d just add that I’d like to see our 4, Willis/Gabriel stronger to the ball.
      You’d think with Cal and all his fine assistants we could adjust and get on the right track.

  22. natedaddy
    8:47 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Is it just me, or did the Michael Buffer thing and the noise record thing all seem a little gimmicky? Especially when you go out and play like they did.

  23. letsroll76
    8:51 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Thanks Fox Thanks Cal killed us Great job by Wills and Hawkins they truely know what bleeding blue means .

  24. Rise
    8:58 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Maybe Cal should check his ego and take notes from other coaches. When we beat teams off the dribble, opposing coaches switch to some form of a zone. We don’t have the length that we are used to. When we get beat off the dribble it is hard to recover.

  25. gottodoit
    9:07 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Well, let’s see. Self played with only 8 players. The backup center had played only about 60 minutes the entire season. Ignoring Kansas’ depleted numbers, Calipari slowed the game to a walk so Kansas could get its breath.When we ran like mad at first we were in control.

    But Cal wanted to throw the ball to Bam each offensive possession. Bam would not pass the ball back out to perimeter shooters. He also had an atrocious night at the foul line.

    Self resorted to zone. Still, we threw the ball inside with minimal success. I don’t think Cal got out-coached. I’m beginning to think he can’t.

    • dakich is stupid
      9:59 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      I wonder what his record against good coaches is? Maybe he is in a slump. Maybe he should spend less time doing podcast and more time coaching. Maybe less time recruiting and more time teaching the players he already has.

    • catsarerunnin
      10:36 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Well obviously Cal can’t coach. I mean don’t look at his record because he always loses to “good” coaches. He should leave immediately and the number one qualification for a new coach should be a winning record against “good” coaches. Brilliant!

    • TBW3011
      10:45 am January 29, 2017 Permalink

      Haven’t seen a single comment saying he should leave or anyone wants him to leave. People want him to actually make an adjustment. He gets outprepared and out coached practically on a nightly basis.

    • catsarerunnin
      12:35 pm January 29, 2017 Permalink

      I don’t agree with everything Cal does. But one thing for sure he knows more about the game and the team than I do. Maybe he has tried zone in practice but maybe they sucked at it. Playing zone is actually more complicated than man to man defense and we’ve seen how this team plays man to man.

    • chris43
      6:27 pm January 29, 2017 Permalink

      If DIV. 1 McDonald’s All Americans struggle with playing zone defense we have major problems. Exactly! We’ve seen how they play man to man….they play it horribly and get beat off the dribble time and time again driving to the rim! Most coaches would say “okay guys we’re going to pack it in and play a tight 2-3 or 3-2 zone to clog up the inside and stop the drives. If they beat us shooting contested 3’s and 15 foot jump shots….so be it! Now would you rather get beat by a time shooting lay ups and open shots or 15 footers and on out? It’s common sense really…..

  26. dakich is stupid
    2:21 pm January 29, 2017 Permalink

    Oh the story that is going to be told at the end of this season. Here comes the tweak!😃