Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats relapse to old habits and Bama exploits them

Kentucky Wildcats. Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky Wildcats. Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

From sizzle to fizzle Kentucky basketball backslides to old habits and pays the price.

Taking a page from the Back to the Future movie the Kentucky basketball team went back in time with their old habits from last month and even further back with their style of play. The  85-65 home loss to Alabama dropped the Wildcats from a first-place tie with the Tide and back into a bewildering state.

85. 523. 65. 528. Final

As efficient, energetic, and full of fight they were against Florida in Gainesville they were as listless, lifeless, and lethargic at home against Alabama.

Kentucky coach John Calipari described it after the game as “a complete mess.”

"“This may be one that you burn the tape on. I hope this is just simply a knockoff game and you put it away and move on.”"

He may want to put that away and never look at it again because the loss was of historical proportions. 

  • The loss marked the worst home loss in the Calipari era at Kentucky.
  • Alabama’s win is its largest margin of victory at Rupp Arena since a 23-point win in 1974 and the first since 2006.
  • Since Rupp Arena opened in 1976-1977, Kentucky has had 6 home losses to SEC opponents by at least 14 points. Alabama is responsible for half of those 6 such losses.
  • Kentucky’s largest margins of defeat at Rupp Arena: 35 points, LSU (1/18/1987) 23 points, Indiana (12/20/1988) 20 points, Alabama (1/12/2021)

There is very little good to find out of the game whatsoever.

Alabama jumped on Kentucky early and despite losing two starters to injuries during the game and another not playing for the third straight due to injury the Tide still played their style of game and executed it to perfection.

That was simply to press the pace and take a shot within 14 seconds like they average all season while firing up three-pointers right and left.

It was no secret game plan that Calipari and the players weren’t prepared for, but a complete breakdown in stopping it defensively and backsliding to making poor decisions, lack of court awareness, no help defense, and an inability to shoot the ball.

Alabama was 14-of-30 (46.7%) from the three-point range and marked the most made threes by a UK opponent since VMI was 19-of-38 from in Rupp on Nov. 18, 2018.

At the other end, it was Kentucky that couldn’t even make a layup going 8-18 (44.4%).

When Alabama’s Herb Jones left the game and headed to the locker room with an injured wrist in the first half Alabama went on a 19-8 run outscoring Kentucky 25-15 to lead 42-30.

Kentucky outrebounded  Alabama in the first half 26-16 rebounding edge but with just 10 made field goals in total while the Tide had 10 from behind the arc the Wildcats Olivier Sarr was held to just four made free throws in the opening half.

Calipari acknowledged that Sarr was in a dogfight all night but his teammates failed to get it to him or if they attempted to all they did was throw it away from him making the fight even harder.

Dontaie Allen started but showed he can’t play the same way he did on Saturday finishing with 10 points and four rebounds and missed on both three-point attempts.

"“It was a butt whipping for sure. This will definitely be an adjustment for us now, but we have to stay as one because our story isn’t over. …….Honestly, it’s was like playing a pickup game the way they play with quick shots and we knew going in it was a hoopers game and you have to guard them like that.”"

Unfortunately, they didn’t.

The game was reminiscent as well of the modern style of play that Alabama coach Nate Oats has implemented in his second year while Calipari plays very old school with their backs to the basket and attempting to feed it inside.

Unfortunately, they struggle to make entry passes while trying to post up 12 feet from the basket and ran down the shot clock just like the old December days and then launched some off-balanced desperate heaves.

They play hard but don’t have the elite superstars like John Wall, Anthony Davis, Malik Monk, KarlTown s to make up the defensive liabilities, and the team as a whole average just 65 points per game.

The one player who continues to get better each game is Devin Askew and while he can’t beat players off the dribble he listens and learns from his mistakes and wants to improve. He finished with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists, and a steal.

Askew tried to shoulder the blame, but the blame doesn’t lie with him.

"“I didn’t show up and play to the best of my ability and let the team down. It just didn’t click for all of us today and that’s on me.”"

Isaiah Jackson goes full tilt all the time and led all scorers with 14 points, six rebounds, and seven blocked shots.

Kentucky as a team hit just 21 of 61 field goals and a mere 4 of 18 threes.

It will be back to the drawing board for Kentucky who will take on Auburn on Saturday who barely lost 94-90 to Alabama on Saturday.