Kentucky basketball comes up short again after a listless effort
Go. Fight. Win! Kentucky basketball failed in each category and the result was a 70-62 loss to Ole Miss as the Rebels won over the Wildcats for just the 14th time.
Kentucky (8-15, 7-9) was mauled on the boards by the Rebels 42-28, and coupled with 38 percent field goal shooting (21 of 56) it was surprising the Wildcats had a shot late to win. Kentucky missed 35 shots but came away with a mere10 offensive rebounds and managed 12-second chance points.
The Wildcats came out lethargic and played that way the first half. An energy boost to kick off the second half was short-lived with the Wildcats leading just over 7 total minutes in the game.
Coach John Calipari said he was pleased that again his team had a chance to win down the stretch but again failed to execute a victory as individuals continue to revert back to old bad habits and as a whole giving up the fight.
” I mean, if you fight, you win. ‘Well, I don’t like to fight. It’s physical and I get pushed and stuff.’ You know, it’s just disappointing, but you know what, got to get ready for Saturday. And all I’m telling them is, like I said after, ‘You get beat by 16 rebounds, you’re not winning. You guys act like you want to win. Then go get balls, go get rebounds.’ We started the game, we didn’t rebound. We were down seven rebounds, or eight, at half, I think. And the whole game plan was, just like Tennessee, you have to fight and take that out of the game.
Both teams got off to slow starts in a contest that looked like it would be a struggle to score 50 points as shots clanged off the rims. Ole Miss had a shot clock violation on its opening possession, but Kentucky again could not find solid scoring as a whole.
Kentucky opened the game hitting just 5 of its first 20 shots and closed the game making just 7 of its final 20 field goal attempts and 2 of the last 10.
He referenced that in his post-game radio show.
“This is a stat our fans may know or may not know. We may be the worst two-point shooting team in America”
As in games past, it wasn’t the turnovers that haunted them but just the lack of fight and desire to win. If you said Kentucky had just seven turnovers in the game to go with 16 assists Calipari would be ecstatic.
But the rebounding and missed foul shots 15 of 25 was what drove him over the edge.
“We had our chance. Make a free throw. I got mad. Normally I don’t do much on that but I had enough of missed free throws. Front end (of) one-and-ones, Second one, missed it. I had enough. Two misses, no. And that’s why I went crazy, I shouldn’t have but that’s the emotional part of me
That and another erratic sluggish start and chilly finish.
Wildcats cold to start and finish
It took Kentucky 6:34 to score their first nine points of the game and at the halfway mark of the first half, Brandon Boston hit a 3 pointer at the top of the key pulling UK within 23-16. Keion Brooks followed that with a short jumper and a three by Davion Mintz and it was suddenly 23-21 with 3:56 to play.
It wasn’t the prettiest 8-0 run but Kentucky found themselves back into the game with a spurt that required just 1:28. The Wildcats committed just five fouls in the half keeping the Rebels off the line and trailed 32-29 at the half.
Devin Askew did not start the second half at the point and the Wildcats offense was much more productive.
Instead, it was Mintz running the show and he still willed in an acrobatic 3 pointer and was fouled as this shot clock went off giving the Cats a 35-34 lead just 2 minutes into the half.
By the media timeout with 11:12 to play Kentucky has pushed out to a 48-43 lead behind Brooks and Mintz along with the Wildcat defense forcing the Rebels into 14 miscues while limiting theirs to five.
Calipari was asked about Mintz moving to the point.
“He wants to be that guy. The only thing I told him was, he passed up on some jump shots. And I said, you still have to shoot balls for us. Now, maybe I’m asking you to do a lot – defend, run the team and shoot balls – but we need that. The other thing is, with him at point, it gets a chance for Dontaie to maybe come in now and be that other guard, too.”
However, Jackson picked up his fourth foul with nine minutes to play and Kentucky down 53-50.
That was the tipping point as Ole Miss, who averages four made 3-pointers this season and shoots 28.5 percent from beyond the arc continued to light it up making 8 of 13 bombs. That included reserve Sammy Hunter who had made just two all season but knocked down three in the game.
Ole Miss went on an 11-4 run to lead 61-54 before Jackson was forced to return but the damage had been done.
Brooks came off the bench to lead Kentucky with 16 points and eight rebounds while Olivier Sarr added15, Jackson 13, and Mintz finished with 10 points and eight assists.
For the second game in a row, Askew failed to record a point and Boston had a mere three points. Jacob Toppin brought his energy to try and help with five points and five rebounds but didn’t have much from the rest of the squad
Calipari admits he has no magic wand
There is little doubt Calipari is trying everything he can but it just isn’t clicking or guys aren’t understanding what it takes. After 35 years he admits he has never been in this situation with a team like this before.
“Look, I’m not quitting on these kids. I’m not cracking. You can tell, my mindset is fine. I’m not used to this but, you know what, I’ve said how many times, I don’t have a magic wand. Now, everybody believes me. I don’t have a magic wand. If I had one, I’d be using it on individual players and the team.”
With no magic wand or elixir to cure the team’s ills and a single game left before the SEC Tournament, it’s evident now they will have to win four games to even dream of making the NCAA Tournament. A feat they have yet to master this year.