The Kentucky Wildcats’ bid to sweep their doubleheader against the Baylor Bears came up a little bit short. Kentucky will have to settle for a split as they leave snowy AT & T Stadium in Arlington.
This was a puzzling performance by the Cats. It was a game filled with ebbs, flows and runs. Once again they got off to a bit of a slow start. Granted, it wasn’t to the level of sluggishness that they displayed against Eastern Michigan or Cleveland State. However, they still found themselves on the wrong end of an early 16-7 deficit.
They then seemed to find their stride as they fought their way back. A quick 10-4 run left them down only three at 20-17.
Baylor was determined to play varying types of zones against the Cats. James Young and Aaron Harrison made them pay as they were knocking down shots from beyond the arc at an impressive rate. It was nip and tuck the rest of the way as Kentucky closed out the first half with a 38-35 lead.
After trailing by nine themselves early in the game, Kentucky had completely swung the pendulum in their favor. Seven minutes into the second half UK had a nine point lead of their own. They outscored Baylor 41-23 over the course of both halves up to that point.
Then with Kentucky leading 50-41, you could insert any cliche’ you’d like. The wheels came off, everything just fell apart or the game simply slipped through their fingers. Kentucky had been able to methodically build and extend their lead. Things were seemingly in control until Baylor wrestled the momentum away and refused to return it. Kenny Chery (18 pts) and the Bears went on a quick 8-0 run to cut Kentucky’s lead to 50-49.
Offensively, the Cats continued to flounder. The efficiency in which they played with during the middle portion of the game now eluded them. Kentucky came into the game averaging 13 turnovers per game. They had been nearly flawless prior to the funk they went into to close the game out.
Then the turnovers came in a cluster at the worst time.
Kentucky had four turnovers in first 28 minutes of this game. Five in the last five minutes.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) December 7, 2013
Two of the turnovers that weren’t part of the cluster of untimely ones were unforced errors by the Harrison twins. Aaron got in to big a hurry to drive baseline and failed to put the ball on the floor. The other instance was Andrew being to nonchalant when the ball was inbounded to him. He didn’t realize the Baylor defender was picking him up full court and he shuffled his feet.
If those two possessions go differently maybe the game goes differently. There were other plays and factors that could have changed the outcome too, but you know what I’m saying.
Isiah Austin got off a nasty two-handed jam on Willie Cauley Stein which was pretty deflating as well. Baylor used the pick and roll to exploit Kentucky on the defensive end. That one play led to several easy trips to the rim for easy Baylor buckets.
Kenny Chery must be given credit too. He was solid and steady all game long. The commentators kept mentioning how he wasn’t Pierre Jackson, Baylor’s point guard last season. He didn’t have to be, he did fine as himself.
He helped Baylor close out the Cats with a decisive 26-12 run to seal the deal.
For the Cats it’s another tough lesson that must be learned and learned quickly. There has been plenty of talk about how tough these December games were going to be. If they didn’t know before, they know now. This was another revenge game for Kentucky. It wasn’t as publicized as the Robert Morris game but it would have been nice to even the score with the Bears since they are the ones who ended Cal’s unbeaten streak at Rupp Arena last year.
Julius Randle’s homecoming didn’t go as smoothly as he would have liked. He played well (16 p/8 r) but everyone will have to continue to step it up for Boise St. on Tuesday night.