Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Avoiding the Hangover Game

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Feb 23, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari coaches his players in a time out during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Missouri 90-83. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Has anything this year felt so good as the win against Missouri on Saturday night? After a nightmarish week in which the Wildcats went 0-2 and lost Nerlens Noel, Big Blue Nation was down in the dumps. A mailed in four point win over Vanderbilt really didn’t help fans get over the feeling of foreboding.

But then Kentucky looked as good as they have all season. Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress all decided to show up and play at the same time. Julius Mays was on fire and hit clutch shot after clutch shot. The Wildcats battled back from a 13 point deficit, something they haven’t been able to do all season, and won the game. All is right in the Big Blue Nation, right?

Not so fast my friends.

We’ve been burned this season before when we thought Kentucky had turned a corner. I’m not writing this article to be negative or to be a wet blanket. I just want to caution fans to not think that everything is going to be fine from here on out. This team is still searching of an identity, though they took a giant leap in the right direction on Saturday.

When have the Wildcats given us false hope before only to suffer a hangover?

80-77 Loss at Louisville

It’s rare that a loss gives a team some hope, but this is that rare occasion. The Louisville Cardinals were the number four team in the country at the time and Kentucky had flopped in its previous games against ranked teams. They played well but lost 75-68 to Duke, they were blown out of South Bend in a 64-50 loss to Notre Dame and lost 64-55 at home to Baylor, though Baylor wasn’t ranked. The game against the Cardinals came after a serving of cupcakes and was to be a litmus test that would let us know what to expect from Kentucky from that point forward. Though UK lost, most agreed that they had improved as they played a superior opponent to the wire. Rick Pitino stated that the Wildcats were going to be an excellent team by February.

What Happened After?

They blew out Eastern Michigan, barely defeated an awful Vanderbilt team by two on the road, then they dropped a stunner to Texas A&M at home by the score of 83-71. It’s a fact that Elston Turner turned in a performance for the ages, but the Wildcats had no business to losing to a team like the Agies at home.

75-53 Win at Auburn

After the loss to A&M, Kentucky defeated Tennessee at home by 10 and then went on the road and demolished the Tigers. Auburn was and still is a bad basketball team, but Kentucky looked like they were having fun for the first time in a long while. Kyle Wiltjer busted out of a slump by scoring 17 points on 6-13 shooting and 3-6 from the three. The offense went through Wiltjer for the most part and Kentucky looked like a new team, ready to explode in the SEC.

What Happened After?

Kentucky took another trip within the state of Alabama and lost in Tuscaloosa to the Crimson Tide 59-55. The Wildcats had scored 75 in two straight games, but faltered offensively against the Tide. Kentucky shot only 39% for the game and shot a terrible 54.5% from the field. Kentucky took an early lead and looked dominant, but Anthony Grant adjusted at half time and slowed the game down to a snail’s pace. Only two players scored in double digits for UK in the ugly loss.

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