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RECAP: Kentucky fumbles golden opportunity vs. Florida

For nine minutes, it was going so well. Kentucky started this game like the team we’d started to believe in, sprinting out to a 13-5 lead and leading Florida by ten with 10:52 to go until halftime. From there, it unraveled.

The Gators’ zone completely stymied the Cats, who turned into the old versions of themselves, playing hot potato around the perimeter, too tentative to drive the lane. Key players made key errors and the offense stalled, and once again, an opportunity was lost. Despite late-game heroics by Davion Mintz and Jacob Toppin, Kentucky lost the game 71-67, falling to 8-14 on the season, 7-8 in conference play. The double-bye at the SEC Tournament is probably out of reach, which really stings because all of the dominos the Cats needed to fall their way for that to happen today did. Ugh.

With two games left until the SEC Tournament, it’s “back to the drawing board,” as John Calipari said to end his press conference. Let’s talk about it.

Davion Mintz and Jacob Toppin did their part

Two players who do not deserve criticism are Davion Mintz and Jacob Toppin, who kept the Cats alive in the final stretch. On his Senior Day (that may not really be a Senior Day), Mintz finished with a team-high 21 points on 7-14 shooting. He was only 2-9 from three, but one of those threes helped pad Kentucky’s lead after an 8-0 Florida run in the first half. Mintz and Toppin scored ten of Kentucky’s final 12 points, with Toppin hitting four straight free throws to put Kentucky up with 6:30 left. Toppin only had two field goals, but they were spectacular: a three at the 13:11 mark give Kentucky the lead and this ridiculous putback dunk with 3:46 left.

Mintz and Toppin also missed shots in the end — notably, a would-be dagger for Mintz with 1:02 left — but they’re not the reason Kentucky lost tonight. Hopefully we get to see both of them next season.

Isaiah Jackson being in foul trouble was a game-changer

What would this game’s outcome have been if Isaiah Jackson wasn’t in foul trouble? The super-freak freshman played only 16 minutes due to fouls, but he made those minutes count, scoring 11 points (4-4 FG, 3-4 FT), grabbing five rebounds, and blocking three shots. With little working on offense, Kentucky desperately needed Jackson on both ends for easy buckets, boards, and blocks. He led the team in plus/minus efficiency at +8. Like all season, foul trouble is his Achilles’ Heel.

Devin Askew and Keion Brooks really struggled

It’s really hard to win when two of your key players can’t stop making mistakes. Both Devin Askew and Keion Brooks turned the ball over three times, leading to the Cats’ abysmal 7-15 assist-to-turnover ratio. Askew finished with one point on 0-5 from the floor, 1-2 from the free throw line, three assists, three turnovers, and a steal in 30 minutes. Brooks was 1-5 from the floor, 2-2 from the free throw line for four points, four rebounds, three turnovers, and a block. His plus/minus efficiency was a team-worst -14.

“We had some bad play, individual bad play today and that happens,” Calipari said afterward. “They’re not machines. They’re not robots. We had a couple guys play one of their worst games, no energy.”

In case there was any doubt, one of the players he was referencing was Brooks.

“Really surprising,” Cal said when asked about Brooks’ play. “I have no idea. He lost one ball and then did not sprint back and let them dunk a ball when the guys was three steps behind him when they both took off. But, I’m going to say this. I love him. He’s played great for us. They’re not machines. They’re not robots. But he was not very good today.”

Speaking of that turnover he mentioned…

A 1:16 stretch that spelled doom

As mentioned, Kentucky was riding high early, hitting seven of its first eleven field goals, but hit a wall of its own making around the nine-minute mark. Three different Cats (Toppin, Sarr, Brooks) turned it over on consecutive possessions, allowing Florida to go on an 8-0 run in the span of 1:16, which turned a ten-point lead into a two-point lead. I don’t doubt that the Gators would have made another run later on, but that was some big momentum lost.

Eight points in just over a minute. Sheesh.

What was that final play? 

Despite everything, Kentucky had a chance to win it at the end. Down two with 37 seconds remaining, the Cats attempted a pick-and-pop for Davion Mintz, but Devin Askew couldn’t get him the ball so he threw it to Olivier Sarr, who rushed a three at the shot clock buzzer. It didn’t work. Unfortunately, Sarr missed what could have been a game-winner and it wasn’t really even his fault.

A golden opportunity lost  

I thought we were past the point of Kentucky throwing away opportunities, but apparently not. The Cats getting a double bye at the SEC Tournament — meaning they’d have to only win three games in a row instead of four to get an automatic bid — was within grasp today thanks to a number of unlikely outcomes. First, Sharife Cooper-less Auburn beat Tennessee. Then, Arkansas knocked off LSU. Finally, the most improbable of them all, Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss, laying the double bye in front of the Cats like a golden egg. Sadly, Kentucky just turned that opportunity over, meaning they’ll be playing Thursday in Nashville, which isn’t so bad depending on the draw, but winning three in a row is easier than winning four in a row, especially when this group hasn’t done that all season.

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.

46 Comments for RECAP: Kentucky fumbles golden opportunity vs. Florida

  1. UKFanSC
    8:09 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    It really doesn’t change anything. We went into this game needing to win the SEC tournament, and that’s exactly where we still are. It would’ve been nice to beat a good Florida team, but inconsequential really.

    That’s my rationalization and I’m sticking with it.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      10:13 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

      Yeah it does. We have to win 4 games instead of 3. Big difference.

    • neat1ky
      8:41 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Makes diff in seeding

    • Bluenblood
      8:54 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      We are going to get our assssss kicked in Nashville and the SEC will smile. We will walk off the floor heads down. End this season!!!

    • UKFanSC
      12:49 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Precisely…..let’s just bring down the curtain on this season. 2020-21 has been an exercise in misplaced optimism, overhyped players, injuries, coach double talk, and social controversy. No fans. Been a rough ride.

      But yes….. if you want to point out that winning 4 games instead of 3 is more difficult I agree. But my exasperated reply would be “is there any difference between drowning in 10 feet of water versus drowning in 30 feet of water ??” Said another way, this team isn’t winning 3 tournament games in a row against teams like Florida, Arkansas, or Bama.

      We’re done.

  2. sprtphan
    8:41 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    You are correct.

  3. zoupman
    8:41 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    Askew struggling, shouldn’t be in bold print. Kind of a given.
    No crazy about these guys that reclassify.
    Loss doesn’t hurt that bad, needed to win conference either way.

  4. BigMike
    8:42 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    I would really like to see a Stat that shows how many shots we miss in the paint compared to other teams

  5. Nickerbocker05
    8:44 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    This is all on calipari this year and it is becoming more apparent… this team is really good from the 5-3 positions. From the “guard” stand point calipari failed HORRIBLY! Maybe He put all his eggs on Cunningham but in this day n age you can’t do that !

    • Megan
      1:14 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Where were you at the beginning of the season, Mr. Hindsight?

  6. Nickerbocker05
    8:45 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    If we had Cunningham this team would be unstoppable RIGHT NOW

    • unbridled
      1:05 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Just think of how good they would be with Cunningham, labron, and Jordan? If wishes were horses…..

    • neat1ky
      8:47 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      He went where his brother was and not it’s not all on Cal, he doesn’t throw the ball away or miss shots and some 5 star players miss their rankings ask Duke on Bolton and others it happens I think next year will be a turn around with some players returning

    • Axel72
      1:38 am March 1, 2021 Permalink

      Was it really worth it for Oklahoma State to get investigated and go on probation to get Cade, maybe it was. It just doesn’t pass the smell test to all of the sudden hire the No.1 recruits brother, I am probably wrong but we all know it happens.

    • Axel72
      1:47 am March 1, 2021 Permalink

      2017-18 Cade’s brother is coaching middle school, 2018-2019 He is video editor at Tulane
      2019 he gets hired as Assistant Coach at Ok State, the year before his brother comes there as the NO.1 recruit
      Does anyone believe he goes there without his brother on staff. I don’t.
      Fact is the kid is so talented he could of gone there or anywhere else and still NO 1 pick this year. Just seems odd he is from Oklahoma, the most obvious choice would be Oklahoma if wanting to stay close to home since they are pretty good.

  7. Kfckernel
    9:04 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    Allen and Welch getting about the same minutes.

  8. millertim
    9:06 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    I guess to the “statisticians” on this site, Askew’s missed lay-up counts as an assist to Jacob Toppin’s dunk… hahaha!!

    • Axel72
      1:15 am March 1, 2021 Permalink

      I actually think he threw it off the backboard in that case, I watched a couple of times and he knew he was trailing uncontested, that being said he I pretty sure he didn’t hit the or backboard on his 5 misses, two literally went under the rim and grazed the net.

  9. Glam Girl
    9:33 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    Is there ANYBODY out there who HONESTLY thinks this team can win the SEC tournament?

    • peaches76
      9:46 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

      Amen sister! Been saying it for weeks. If after 20 some games you still turn it over too much and still have a lame offense…it ain’t gonna change drastically overnight. We beat a struggling UT and 2 mediocre teams and suddenly we’re going to win 4 tournament games in a row??

    • Glam Girl
      6:22 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Me too, Peaches. Not to mention the fact that we can’t keep teams from scoring at will under the basket. Way to easy at times.

    • Nickerbocker05
      9:59 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

      Not with only 1 guard.. unless that guard was Kenna walker or even John wall

    • Glam Girl
      6:23 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Don’t believe even John Wall could save this bunch.

    • The Big Lebowski
      3:06 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      I think they can.

      I don’t think they will.

      But any team win a Win and Advance tournament. Hell, Vandy could get on a roll and win the SECT. Will it happen? H#LL NO!

      For all we know, the SEC wings up having all of the teams out with COVID except for Vandy and UK. UK easily wins that one. lol

    • Glam Girl
      6:26 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

      The way I see it, we’d only easily win if everyone else dropped out! lol. Gotta laugh about it at this point.

    • Megan
      1:16 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Nope. But that’s why they play the games. Let’s see what happens.

    • Axel72
      1:17 am March 1, 2021 Permalink

      Only at Wildcat lodge or Cals home. I hope they prove us all wrong, even so they likely would play a very good 3 seed in the 1st round of NCAA, so there’s that.

  10. Nickerbocker05
    10:00 pm February 27, 2021 Permalink

    Only guard we have is mintz. Hands down.

  11. unbridled
    1:08 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    The ridiculous turnovers in the second half were down right embarrassing

  12. jakew60
    3:00 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    Beat ole miss we the seven seed which would be good for us

  13. kjd
    8:39 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    MTT: Why’d you think we had turned the corner? Won three in a row, but never 4. Second half against UT, we only had 5 or 6 made shots. We can’t execute in the half court. We are a flawed team.

  14. Southky
    10:02 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    A zone defense stymied the Cats. I think I have seen that happen a few dozen times over the last few years. I wonder…does the coaching staff have any idea how to play against a zone?

    • Axel72
      1:23 am March 1, 2021 Permalink

      The way you break a zone, is have people that can beat somebody off the dribble, shoot deep 3s really well, screen really well, and have guys on the court that have been coached about spacing, or put 3 bigs under the rim and they are forced to come out of it. They played 3-2 so the bigs inside was the way to bust it, the fact Isiah couldn’t stay on the court hurt that option.

  15. just a guy
    10:02 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    In this article, if you just read the bold print subtitles you could literally place this article with EVERY game we’ve played. Mintz and Toppin kept us in it, Askew struggled, Jackson in foul trouble, “that stretch of the game where” and Sarr taking the ball at end of game when it wasn’t “designed for him”.

    Someone, anyone tell me how this tram has progressed since the first game of season. Don’t give me the UT game, they can’t barely beat their own ass right now 3-4 in last 7. Offense has not changed, player faults have not changed, defensive scheme has not changed, individual player play has not changed, end of game adjustments have not changed, and the results have not changed

  16. CahillsCrossingNT
    10:36 am February 28, 2021 Permalink

    Does anybody remember when Kentucky was an elite program?

    • UKFanSC
      12:51 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      We most assuredly are an elite program….. but one that’s suffered through a very tough year. Not unlike UNC last year.

    • Megan
      1:20 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      Stop trying to be reasonable, UKFanSC. Don’t you know where you are?

    • Axel72
      1:27 am March 1, 2021 Permalink

      Yes unfortunately we are an elite program with one or two guys that can consistently knock down open shot this year. The record would be a lot uglier if Mintz isn’t here, which is why I hope he is convinced to stay. Not that this record isn’t really ugly.

  17. makeitstop
    12:03 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

    It’s my fault. I got to where I couldn’t watch them, so I just recorded them in case they won. Yesterday I was stuck on a plane w/ DISH so I watched start to finish. Sorry everyone, it won’t happen again!

  18. Lip Man 1
    12:15 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

    Another cluster screw up at the end of the game (great play call there coach!) and yet ANOTHER close loss. That’s seven, SEVEN this season by five points or less.

    • makeitstop
      12:55 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      It was that. But we have won close games in the past. So has he a) forgotten how to coach (unlikely), b) lost a key assistant without adequate replacement) (true but is it causative?), or c) is it a LOFT problem (lack of f’ng talent)?

      I think Cal is the same guy he’s always been, so a) is unlikely. So is it X’s and O’s or Jimmy’s and Joe’s?

    • Keith Branstetter
      2:00 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

      makeitstop, if it’s x’s and o’s and we have better talent, I’ll take us. if it’s equal talent, we’re in trouble.

  19. Dr. Tom
    7:23 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

    We are deer-in-the-headlights against the zone!!

  20. AzUKfan
    11:32 pm February 28, 2021 Permalink

    Kentucky adds another dubious distinction. With its defeat, UK is 4-6 this season in games played in Rupp Arena.
    With only the rescheduled contest with South Carolina on March 6 remaining on the home schedule, the 2020-21 Cats will be the first UK team in the 45-year history of Rupp Arena to have a losing record in home games.

  21. Axel72
    1:31 am March 1, 2021 Permalink

    What drives me crazy is they rarely practice at Rupp Arena. The lady wildcats do I spent a lot of time in Rupp during the day, working on the DAS system, I have never seen the guys there.