Kentucky blew it. Period. All they had to do was beat Vanderbilt in order to put a lock on a tournament bid. They had a sold out arena full of passionate, loud Kentucky fans. They had the momentum of defeating Florida at home. They had the advantage of already defeating the Commodores twice this season, once at home and once at home.
How did they utilize these advantages? By getting demolished by a sub .500 team by 16 points.
Vanderbilt was the aggressor from the first tip. The ‘Dores shut off driving lanes and covered up Julius Mays and didn’t allow him to get a good look at the basket.
During the regular season Vandy shot 40% from the field. They were 254th in rebounds, 247th in assists yet they shot 50% from the field tonight, had three more assists than Kentucky and only missed out-rebounding the Wildcats by two. They also ranked dead last in the SEC in free throw shooting, but shot 10-11 from the line tonight.
In a stark contrast, the Wildcats were abysmal on offense. They shot a low 34.6% from the field, a pathetic 28.6% from the three-point line and 8-16 from the free throw line. Only two Wildcats scored in double figures; Kyle Wiltjer had 10 and Archie Goodwin had 12.
Kentucky tried to climb back in the game in the second half with 10 minutes to go. They cut Vandy’s twenty point lead to 11 points, thanks to Archie Goodwin, but the ‘Cats could not convert on offense. They missed the front end of bonus free throws and failed to hit any shots outside of the paint.
No one player is to blame but Ryan Harrow played one of his worst games of the season. Harrow was 2-15 from the field with four points, one assist and four turnovers. The team goes as Harrow goes, that’s been the trend all season, and he didn’t show up tonight.
He isn’t the only one to blame. Alex Poythress again pulled his trademark disappearing act with only six points. I feel bad for him because this was supposed to be a homecoming. He had family in the arena cheering loudly for him and they have to feel just as bad for his performance as I am sure he does.
As the game came to a close the few Vanderbilt fans in the arena were loud and proud. They started chanting NIT, NIT, NIT to the defending champs, and then turned to the thousands of Kentucky fans and started singing “Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye!”. I hope the players heard all of it. I hope they felt the same humilation that the Kentucky fans felt. The fans that tried with all of their might to cheer this team on, to push them to victory with their voices.
I’m not sure how this season will ultimately play out. The Wildcats are now back firmly on the bubble as one of Joe Lunardi’s last four out. These players, individually and as a team, were inconsistent all season long. I have zero confidence that they are going to make any kind of run in the NCAA tournament even if they some how beat the odds and make it. It looks as if the 2012 National Champions will get an NIT bid and I hope John Calipari declines it; because be sure about this, some of these guys will not be playing in the NBA next year. They will be back as sophomores. I hope Cal declines the NIT and ends the season on this note. I hope the players that come back have a bad taste in their mouth. I hope they hold a grudge. I hope they finally get pissed off; because next year is going to be a different story.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Next season isn’t going to be here any time soon and the results of this dagger to the heart will be felt for a long time to come.