Kentucky basketball: Grinch of an effort sends Wildcats to defeat in Bluegrass battle

Davion Mintz of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Davion Mintz of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Kentucky basketball team failed to show again falling to rival Louisville.

The Grinch stayed an extra day in the Bluegrass State and with the Kentucky basketball team as the famous line goes “The three words the best describe you and I quote ‘stick, stank stunk!”

Those same words apply to this basketball season thus far for Kentucky as the Wildcats are now 1-6 for the first time since 1911 after suffering their sixth straight defeat 62-59 at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville.

Louisville (6-1) didn’t play much better in the game but did what it needed to and held off Kentucky winning for the first time since 2016. The Wildcats still lead the all-time series 37-16.

Kentucky really doesn’t have any post players to speak of and the ones that they do have clearly have been MIA most notably Olivier Sarr.

The Wake Forrest transfer that was going to be the game-changer this season but for the second straight game failed to ring up a field goal finishing with just one point and one rebound.

Last year in the same building he dropped 16 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Deamon Deacons.

Yet with the chance for Kentucky to take the lead trailing by just a point coach John Calipari decided during a timeout that Sarr was the best option.

With fans far and near and social media pleading for Davion Mintz to have the ball in his hands and either drive or take the go-ahead jumper he never touched it.

Instead, it was Sarr taking a baseline jumper that clanged off the iron, rolled around, and fell off the rim – an exact replica of the Notre Dame game with the same result.

Calipari defended the decision saying he has gone through this before with Brandon Knight and it took till the end of the season to get it to work. This team doesn’t have till the end of the year. He told Sarr it was “buzzard luck’ that the shot didn’t fall just like against Notre Dame.

But the buzzards are circling this team and opponents are eating them and all their confidence.

Louisville converted at the other end following the Sarr miss with two makes at the foul line and with 5.1 seconds to play Kentucky somehow got the ball into Brandon Boston Jr.’s hands and not Mintz’s and his 3 at the buzzer was off the mark.

Bear in mind Boston was 0-2 from three up to that point while Mintz was 4 for 6 with a career and game-high 19 points.

In addition to his 19 points, he also tied for rebound leading honors with Boston and Isaiah Jackson each with seven.  Kentucky actually outrebounded the Cardinals 40-35,

Boston tallied just two points in the first half but did play somewhat better in the second finishing with 11 points, with five coming at the foul line but was 3-for-11 in field goal shooting.

Something clearly missing

Any great recipe calls for the right ingredients and Kentucky is missing a lot, but there are three main ones that haven’t found their way into the mix all year – no mental, physical or emotional fight.

Players come to Kentucky to play for the name on the front of the jersey and not the back.

Either they just aren’t as good as advertised or the game is way more complex than they imagined or is it coaching?

Another missing piece that seems ready to contribute is Dontaie Allen but Calipari has refused to play him.

Terrence Clarke who barely practiced this week yet managed to play scored one point was 0-4 shooting and 0-3 behind the arc. He was in a walking boot much of the week after injuring his ankle against North Carolina.

If he can’t go then why play him. Calipari said postgame that he tried to steal some minutes with him but was a mistake.

Then the reasoning or lack of about Allen again not seeing any action but telling him repeatedly be ready at any moment.

"“I told Dontaie today, ‘be ready today for your chance. If I don’t think Terrence (Clarke) can go, then I am going with you. It is going to be your opportunity.’ There were two times I thought about putting him in. Once in the first half, which I wish I would have because then I would have been able to play him in the second half.  If I don’t play a guy in the first half and it goes on — then he is going to have a chance.  It just wasn’t tonight. I coach the game to win. That is all I did."

Allen has seen action in only four games averaging five minutes and is 2 for 6 shooting all three-point attempts.

The former Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Pendleton, KY only averaged 42.9 points per game his senior season and 14 rebounds.

Devin Askew, Allen, and Mintz are shooting a combined 33.9% from 3 point range this season (19-56). The rest of the team combined is a woeful 11-64 or 17.2%.

Calipari says he is always rooting for Allen yet his team still can’t shoot and was a frigid 5 of 17 three-point shooting. At one point the tide turned as the Wildcats went almost 8 minutes without a bucket.

Every kid in Kentucky dreams of playing at Kentucky someday especially counties with just 15,000 like Pendleton is. Give him the playing time he deserves and see what happens and not a short leash.

Who is getting it? The bench

There are some however that are displaying this desire but that comes from the bench and not the starting lineup.

Ok, Askew was a starter, went to the bench, and has obviously gotten the most from Calipari’s Camp Cal and was back in the starting rotation due to Clarke.  As a starter Askew, he too was lost but has found his way by coming off the bench.

Granted his seven points all came in the first half but he had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a single turnover. His confidence is growing and Calipari acknowledged that.

"I like Devin [Askew]. How much better as Devin gotten? Incredible. Again, he had two or three breakdowns that became critical. But he’s just so much better as a player right now. He plays hard. He plays physical. Davion’s diving on the floor going for balls."

As is Jacob Toppin with 10 points, six rebounds, and no turnovers and Lance Ware with four points, four rebounds a block, and no turnovers.

Jackson got the team sparked to open the second half with a block, steal, assist and dunk. But he was on the bench in foul trouble down the stretch. He is the best athlete on the floor but has to stay on the floor.

So who wants to see what would happen if you had Askew, Mintz, Jackson, Toppin, Ware, and Allen get prime minutes. What could it honestly hurt at this juncture?