Kentucky Basketball: Another loss and the questions mount just how low can they go

Jacob Toppin of Kentucky.(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jacob Toppin of Kentucky.(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Kentucky basketball team falls into a historical worst start in almost 100 years.

Going into the North Carolina game the question on most people’s minds about the Kentucky basketball team was the lingering question of who should play point guard.

Well, that may have been the top of the mountain, but the core of the team has been left shaking, crumbling, and in a seriously unstable condition. Caverns of frustration, bewilderment, and atrocious displays of basketball skill and IQ grow deeper especially after the 75-63 loss to the Tar Heels on Saturday.

Granted the play for both teams was skewed from the true analysis due in part to the 55 fouls that were called in the game, 30 on Kentucky, and 25 on the Tar Heels. Unfortunately, these two of the winningest basketball programs of all time were unable to showcase this.

Kentucky (2,319) is also in danger of losing the top spot in all-time wins as Kansas (2,309)  is closing the gap with North Carolina in third (2,280).

The Wildcats showed some fight against Notre Dame last week but have now dropped five straight after an opening season win over Morehead State and marks the first time since 1927 that Kentucky has started this poorly.

Yes, that’s right 1927.

Let’s indulge just a bit of brief history in all fairness and context.

The coach of that team was actually a player who has his jersey in the rafters of Rupp Arena and coached just one season – Basil Hayden.

Hayden is better known for being an All-American player at UK than his single-season 3-13 coaching resume.

Hailing from Stanford, KY he played at Kentucky from 1919-22 and even was captain for the team to win the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship and was named an All-American. He is the first basketball player to garner that honor at the University of Kentucky.

In 1926 he was an impromptu pick to replace Ray Eklund as the head coach but was given only one week to prepare a team of mostly football players. The team finished 3-13 and UK did not have another losing season until 1988–89 under Eddie Sutton.

Fast forward to 2020 with a team conversely beaming with talent yet are they on the same path?

After two weeks of Camp Cal and his getting back to basics this team just lacks so many tangibles.

They still don’t have a point guard and appears it’s by committee with Terrence Clarke, Devin Askew, and Davion Mintz.

There are no threats down low to be reconded with and North Carolina fully took advantage in the second half to pull away for the win.

Calipari was asked how to keep demanding more from the team without dismantling the young players’ psyche.

"“Well, I think part of it is we’ve just got to stay focused on – again, what are the things we can be great at when it doesn’t take talent or skill? The energy, the fight, the togetherness, the trust, the belief in one another, the game planning, the adjustments in game. I mean, we need to be great at those things to be able to win and we’re not. And a lot of times guys aren’t listenin"

This team can’t shoot three’s – yet continues to jack them up (3-13).

They seem to forget what they are doing at times dribbling balls of their knees out of bounds (8 assists to 16 turnovers) while committing silly fouls.

And what is up with Dontaie Allen and why won’t’ Calipari play him more. Just 1 minute when four players fouled out.

Why did Cam’Ron Fletcher only get 2 minutes as well?

When is Keion Brooks coming back?

The few bright but not glowing takeaways:

  • Brandon Boston is starting to come to life
  • Askew looks more comfortable after coming off the bench and gaining confidence
  • The bench gave some quality minutes

Kentucky actually came out on fire to start the game and at one point was shooting 75.5 percent and  Mintz knocking down three 3-pointers.

The opening three positions were Olivier Sarr to Isaiah Jackson for a dunk, Boston a floater in the lane, and Mintz a 3-pointer.

However, Jackson was called for his second foul just 3 minutes into the game.

Askew came in at the 15-minute timeout and was zeroed in. This may be a good role for him and could be the spark off the bench. Kentucky followed that with a 7-0 run.

Askew finished with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, and even a block.

But Sarr also picked up his second with a common issue he has of getting called for moving screens and North Carolina got it in gear and rolled off an 11-0 run.

As the half closed Kentucky went on an 11-2 run and led 38-31 with 33 seconds left after Jacob Toppin ripped and fought for a rebound.  But Caleb Love‘s three-point play with 4.4 seconds left stung.

With everyone seemingly in foul trouble for Kentucky and Jackson getting his third 42 seconds into the half, Lance Ware his fourth with 13:03 to play, and Sarr his fourth with 11:15 to play the deficit was becoming increasingly hard to overcome.

Ware gave quality play off the bench with four points, seven rebounds, and even two steals but too was bitten by the foul bug.

Mintz led all scorers with 17 points and eight rebounds while Boston followed with 15 points and seven boards.

Sarr had the biggest disappearing act with two points and four rebounds. However, the senior also failed to shoot a single field goal or free throw.

That just can’t happen for this team to even have a remote chance.

Clarke also was a no-show much of the game with just six points, zero assists, and zero steals.

Brooks, who would have brought leadership and experience surprised everyone by appearing at the post-game media conference especially since he didn’t play. He responded on how frustrating it is to not be on the court.

"“It’s extremely frustrating because I know what they’re going through and it’s tough for them and I can’t go out there and just be out there with them. I wish I could go down there and get a couple of rebounds for us. Do the simple stuff, do stuff that brings the team morale up. Also, being the only one playing for coach, I’m out there on the floor to calm us down and let us know that we’re going to be fine. It’s tough to do from the sideline but I’m doing everything I can. We just gotta keep believing in each other and we’ll get it all figured out.”"

For this team to have success everyone must contribute consistently night in and night out. No absentee or tardies are acceptable and usually aren’t for Calipari.

If not for an apparent weak SEC conference in front of them other than Tennessee this team would be in serious jeopardy of recording its worst season. That still may happen.

It’s safe to say they aren’t an NCAA Tournament team at all nor an NIT either.

One more week off and in Camp Cal until heading to Louisville to take on the No. 23 Cardinals at Noon on Saturday. Another loss and the sinkhole may be just too deep to find a way out of.