For those of you, like most of the rest of us, who couldn’t stay up for the game due to the 4OT marathon by the UK Hoops team, the good guys didn’t fare so well. There were several areas they struggled and for once, the 3-pt line wasn’t among them. That FT line though…disaster, and that rebounding…ugly.
ARLINGTON, Tex. — Nerd alert. A few disturbing numbers from Kentucky’s 67-62 loss to Baylor on Friday night at Ice Station Zebra.
– Kentucky made just 12 of 23 free throws for 52.2 percent. That’s the fewest number of free throws the Cats have shot this year and the lowest percentage. UK made just 10 of 17 free throws for 58.8 percent in the second half.
– Baylor’s offensive rebounding percentage was 54.5. It’s just the fourth time in the Calipari Era in which an opponent got more offensive rebounds than UK got defensive rebounds. Tennessee got 62.5 last year in Knoxville. Maryland grabbed 52.8 percent during last year’s opener in Brooklyn. Alabama got 55.9 percent in its win over UK in 2011, the game in which John Calipari got caught on TV saying some things to Terrence Jones, Cal’s wife Ellen made the coach apologize for after the game.
– UK had an offensive efficiency rating of 103.5, lowest of the year. Previous low was 103.8 vs. Eastern Michigan. UK’s rating in its other loss was 104.1 vs. Michigan State.
– Baylor’s efficiency rating was 110.8, second-highest against UK this season. Michigan State’s rating was 114.6.
– Baylor outrebounded UK by 16, the first time the Cats have been outrebounded this year. You have to go back to last year’s blowout loss at Tennessee to find a game in which the Cats took a worse beating on the glass. Tennessee outrebounded UK by 18 in Knoxville.
– UK’s offensive rebounded percentage of 30.3 was its lowest of the season.
– Baylor shot 47.3 percent, second to Michigan State’s 47.6.
– One more number: Zero. Kentucky had 0 steals tonight. That’s the first time since 2008 that the Cats went through an entire game without being credited for a single steal.
With John Calipari, analogies and “coach speak” always abounds and last night was no exception. The primary topic was ‘fighting” and if we don’t “start fighting” we’ll “keep losing.”
The Bears attacked Kentucky with a barrage of jump shots and dunks to build a 16-7 advantage before the first official TV timeout. After looking disjointed on offense early in the game, the Wildcats were able to find holes in the Bears’ zone defense and narrowed the deficit to just two points by the 9:25 mark. Kentucky knotted the score at 31 with just over four minutes remaining in the half after two Randle free throws. The Bears took a three-point lead into the break after Jefferson got behind Kentucky’s defense for a pair of dunks. Kentucky shot 6-of-10 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
Kentucky opened a nine-point lead early in the second half, but Chery, who orchestrated the offense in impressive fashion throughout the game, converted two free throws to put the Bears up one at the six-minute mark. A Chery mid-range jumper with 43 seconds left gave Baylor a 65-61 lead and effectively iced the game.
This was Kentucky’s first game against a high-profile opponent since its Nov. 12 matchup with Michigan State in the Champions Classic. The Wildcats came up just short and must now regroup before charging into the toughest part of their non-conference schedule. Kentucky will face undefeated Boise State, North Carolina, Belmont (who beat UNC in Chapel Hill earlier this year) and no. 7 Louisville before the end of the calendar year. Making it through that stretch without a loss will be tough, but if Kentucky can remedy some of the issues it evinced Friday night – including poor offensive execution down the stretch and an apparent lack of resolve and toughness – and continue to improve, it should enter its SEC opener against Mississippi State (Jan. 8) with one of the best non-conference resumés in the country. John Calipari’s team is getting better and it should be able to bounce back from this setback.
“Either we’ll start fighting or we’ll keep losing,” Calipari told reporters after the game.
Coach Cal, Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle Post Game Comments
Kentucky’s, typically, universal strength against every opponent is their size but last night, the Baylor Bears matched that too.
The Bears (8-1) were able to do what so few opponents can: match Kentucky’s size. With 7-foot-1 center Isaiah Austin, 6-9 forward Cory Jefferson and 6-8, 270-pound bruiser Rico Gathers, Baylor dominated the Cats on the glass, 41 rebounds to 25. UK (7-2) averaged 15.5 more rebounds per game than its first eight opponents. The Bears also flummoxed the Wildcats with a zone defense that yielded just two made field goals in the final 13 minutes.
That’s how a three-point halftime lead and a 50-41 second-half advantage for Kentucky vanished. From that point on, after a dunk by Dallas-area native Julius Randle had a pro-Cats crowd rocking the supposedly neutral site, Kentucky went cold. The Wildcats, who had just four turnovers in the first 28 minutes, coughed up five in five minutes during Baylor’s comeback.
The Bears scored eight unanswered and used a 16-5 run to seize the lead for good in the final six minutes.
“Our fans just want to see a team fight and battle and compete, and this team didn’t,” Calipari said. “Soon as this thing got rough and the first two raindrops hit, it’s like a front-running team. The raindrops hit, we stop fighting.”
That was an interesting analogy since freezing rain brought much of the area to a screeching halt Friday. Roads were frozen solid, traffic snarled and flights — about 700 of them, according to the Dallas Morning News — were cancelled. The local newspaper reported roughly 4,000 people would spend the night at the airport.
Now that Kentucky has lost, Gary Parrish has penalized them mightily on his ever updating Top 25 (and one) column, dropping them all the way down to #15. It doesn’t matter of course but it’s fun to argue about.