These posts are definitely less fun to write after a loss, so I’m just going to get straight to the point. Last night was bad. Maybe even worse than that. After No. 8 Kentucky fell to No. 24 Florida 88-66, there’s plenty to talk about. Here’s a few things I have to say about the loss.
1. Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding
Let’s start with one of the most obvious statistics of the night. The Gators outrebounded UK 54-29: 17-6 on the offensive end and 37-23 on the defensive end. The lack of rebounding absolutely killed the Cats, and led to Florida scoring 17 second-chance points to Kentucky’s seven.
De’Aaron Fox agreed it was a major issue.
“We were missing a lot of shots, and they were grabbing rebounds,” Fox said. “They killed us on the boards today, and that’s probably why they won the game, mainly.”
2. At least Fox is back…
Well… sorta. Although Fox was, at times, sloppy, he was the Cats’ leading scorer, ending the night with 19 points. He went 5-11 from the floor and 9-10 from the free throw line. Still, he only had three rebounds and zero assists. After the game, Calipari said that last night was “the first time De’Aaron (Fox) has played in six days.”
“[My] legs kind of weren’t under me, but people play through sickness and I’m back now,” Fox said. “So I’m not going to make any excuse.”
3. Speaking of illness…it’s still plaguing this team
Over the past few games, the Cats have been without a variety of players due to illness. Tonight was no different. After Fox was dubbed a “game time decision” and was not included in the starting lineup, the BBN was fair in worrying about the extent of whatever illness kept him from the Georgia game. Although Dominque Hawkins started in his place, it didn’t take long for Fox to get in last night’s game, as he checked in with 16:44 left in the first half.
Mychal Mulder was finally back in action, and he ended the night with eight points in 16 minutes.
Sacha Killeya-Jones is still down with the flu, and he did not make the trip to Gainesville. Yesterday, Coach Cal also mentioned that Tai Wynyard had been feeling under the weather. Although Wynyard did get in the game, he played for just seven minutes and scored only two points while quickly picking up two fouls.
I understand illness and how it can quickly spread throughout the dorm and deplete a team. On campus, basically everyone I know either has a fever or a cold right now. Heck, I’m writing this from my own dorm bed with strep throat. But at some point, “I was sick” doesn’t cut it anymore. This team needs to find a way to fight, especially for one another when players are sick.
4. Briscoe fell back on his old ways
Excluding his 23-point performance against Georgia, the sophomore just hasn’t seemed like himself recently – at least not his “first half of the season” self. In the first ten games of the season, Briscoe was averaging over 15 points per game. In the last five games, he’s clocking in at just 10.4 (and that’s averaging in the 23-point game against Georgia).
He ended last night with just six points, going 3-10 from the field and 0-2 from the free-throw line. He had three rebounds, three assists and four turnovers in his 30 minutes of playing time.
Once again, the missed layups were a problem.
“Isaiah (Briscoe) again had four turnovers. That’s ten in the last two games,” Calipari said after the game. “We missed one-footers and (Briscoe) missed three layups.”
5. Losing to Top-25 teams now will hurt UK come March
Before the game yesterday, Kentucky was being projected as a No. 2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. Last night’s loss has the potential to change that. However, several of the other top teams have taken a hit over the past few days. Just yesterday, two predicted No. 1 seeds were upset by unranked opponents: Baylor fell to Kansas State 54-56, and Kansas lost to Iowa State 89-92. A predicted No. 2 seed, Arizona was crushed by No. 13 Oregon 58-85.
Kentucky is struggling against other top-25 teams, especially on the road. With losses to Louisville, Tennessee and Florida on the road and losses to Kansas and UCLA in Rupp, it’s hard to ignore how this Kentucky team is stacking up against other Top-25 opponents.
Unfortunately for UK, last night was one of the last games that could have carried some real weight when deciding the seeding for this year’s NCAA tournament, at least for a while. UK will have their shot at a rematch against the Gators in Rupp Arena at the end of this month, but until then, Kentucky needs to find a way to show its talent against some unranked SEC teams.
6. If you thought the second half was bad…
You should have seen the first. Kentucky was held to a season-low 26 points in the first half. The Gators got points on the board first, and did not trail for the remainder of the game. They hit six three-point buckets compared to UK’s two in the first 20 minutes. The only line on the box score that favors Kentucky in the first half is turnovers, in which the Cats had five while the Gators committed 12. After shooting 9-30 for 30 percent from the floor, including plenty of missed layups, it’s a wonder the Cats weren’t trailing by more than eight at the break.
To make matters worse, Kentucky had just 13 rebounds to Florida’s 34 and two second-chance points compared to Florida’s 12.
7. There were plenty of “season lows”
Kentucky’s 66 points marked the fewest number of points scored by the team this season. This comes from a collection of season lows, including lowest shooting percentage from the field (37 percent) and fewest number of assists (seven). The Cats’ 29 rebounds were its second fewest of the year (28 vs. Stephen F. Austin), and they tied their season-low record for made field goals (23 at Louisville and vs. Michigan State).
8. But Cal isn’t giving up, and neither should we
It’s true that last night was tough to watch. With an 8:15 tipoff, I’m sure there were plenty of fans who went to bed or flipped the channel before the final buzzer. With this team looking like they did last night, it’s completely understandable to be frustrated. I am, you are, even Cal is. But we’ve still got some time before March, and hopefully Coach will be able to get this team back to playing with a team mentality and a little more fight.
“I’ve been doing this 30 years. I’ve seen everything. Sometimes you gotta hit bottom, and maybe we have hit bottom, maybe we haven’t hit bottom,” Calipari said. “Now we see them at their worst. OK, now it’s a choice: do you want to be at your worst, do you want to be at your best?”
9. Women’s Basketball takes on Vandy
After a disappointing loss to South Carolina on Thursday, No. 25 UK Hoops (15-8) looks to redeem itself against Vanderbilt (11-11) today at noon in Memorial Coliseum. During the game, Kentucky will be paying tribute to three recipients of the 2017 Sue Feamster Trailblazer Award. If you can’t make it to Memorial, be sure to tune into the SEC Network to cheer on the Cats, and follow along on Twitter for updates (@MaggieDavisKSR and @SavannahPattKSR).
10. Super Bowl Sunday is finally here!!
Aaaaaand finally, for today’s biggest sports news. It’s finally here. The day NFL fans have been waiting for basically all year: Super Bowl Sunday. The Atlanta Falcons will take on the New England Patriots at 6:30 on Fox in a classic underdog matchup. Whether you watch for the game, the commercials or the Lady GaGa halftime performance, odds are you and somewhere around 112 million of your closest friends will be tuning in tonight. Personally, I’m almost always for the underdog in games like this so, at least for today, I’m a Falcons fan. Who ya got?