Everyone knew that Kentucky boasted its usual top talented newcomer class entering this year, but who placed their wagers that they wouldn’t be able to shoot the ball.
It was Deja-vu all over again on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis where No. 20 Kentucky and No. 7 Kansas would put on a clinic of bricking shot after shot. Yet in the end it was the Wildcats clanking the final shot in a 65-62 loss.
Coming on the heels of an embarrassing loss to Richmond on Sunday in Lexington in which they collapsed and disappeared in the second half to the Spiders the same issues reared its ugly head again against the Jayhawks.
Simply put they were overwhelmed both by the poor shot selection, bad decisions, foul trouble, no post presence, and a failure to look for that extra pass.
We saw this same movie against Richmond, but this time it showed up on what is normally one of the biggest games on the schedule each year. The excitement over the fun this team showed in the opener against Morehead State has quickly turned to angst.
There were a few glimmers of light, but those were snuffed out by the other glaring issues for concern just three games into this season.
Early on Kentucky’s shooting woes were masked by some lockdown defense against the Jayhawks.
Kansas early in the contest went nearly 7 minutes without a point and their field goal shooting was a dismal 15 percent as Kentucky’s defense swallowed up the Jayhawk and moved to a 17-5 lead.
However, Kentucky was leading 32-20 when they suddenly went cold the final 4:20 of the half without a field goal as Kansas began chipping away. Olivier Sarr sat on the bench for Kentucky with two fouls. That was unfortunate as there is little doubt they miss his presence on on both ends of the court.
But this was an issue for the Wake Forrest transfer while he played for the Demon Deacons. In the past two games he has headed to the bench in the first half saddled with a pair of fouls.
The Cats limped into the half clinging to a 35-29 lead and the meltdown carried over as Kentucky netted just five points in the first eight minutes.
It only got worse with foul trouble as DevinAskew, Sarr and Terrence Clark all had three fouls with 13:43 to play and Sarr picked up his fourth 57 seconds later.
Kansas took the lead at 39-38 and did just enough to hold on for the win.
In the past two games Kentucky has handed out just 13 assists while turning it over 36 times. That was six assists against Richmond and a total of eight against Kansas. We all know that stat can’t happen.
The three point shooting is non existent yet everyone on the team insists on firing them up. They lack any kind of motion offense, fail to look for the extra pass and never look inside or take the ball to the rack.
Kentucky is a frigid 9 of 47 for the year. That’s 19-percent!!
Brandon Boston 0 for 11
Davion Mintz: 4 for 10
Terrance Clarke: 0 for 8
Devin Askew: 2 for 7
Diontaie Allen: 2 for 5
Cam’ron Fletcher: 1 for 3
Jacob Toppin: 0 for 1
Isaiah Jackson: 0 for 2
This is where Keion Brooks is sorely missed being the only player on the team that has actually scored a point on the Kentucky roster that has played for John Calipari entering this season. We have to wait a while longer for his return.
A few shimmers of Light
Undoubtedly the star of the night was the defensive play of Isaiah Jackson. The 6-10 freshman was a load underneath for the most part scoring seven points, blocking eight shots, and pulling down a dozen rebounds – nine on the defensive end.
I thought Mintz provided some much needed leadership and earned more future minutes on the floor. The Creighton graduate transfer knocked down two of Kentucky’s treys (2-of-4) to go with two rebounds, assists and steals.
Off the bench came sparks Toppin and Allen both of which also clearly earned more minutes.
Toppin’s stat line won’t jump out (six points and three rebounds), but his energy and willingness show confidence in his shot should pay dividends. Allen hit the Cats other three of the night and is known for his outside shot.
Kentucky will try to right the ship with I am sure some intense practices before they take the floor Sunday against Georgia Tech.