What a game! Their passion, the relentless effort, and incredible will to win! But after watching that performance by the UK women’s basketball team in a four-overtime victory over Baylor, Big Blue fans watched the UK men’s team spit the bit over the final 13 minutes of a 67-62 loss to the Bears.
You can come up with an assortment of excuses for the Wildcats’ performance, given the unusual circumstances of this road trip, but they all ring hollow. Still, for whatever reason, Kentucky looked a step slow down the stretch. John Calipari blamed himself for playing his starters too many minutes but nobody coming off the bench gave any indication that he was going to offer anything better. You could argue Cal needs to leave them in the game longer but if you’re coaching to win a game and your starters give you a nine-point lead, you tend to lean on them to get you home instead of the reserves that failed to produce when called upon earlier.
I tend to dismiss the collapse in this one game as more of a fluke than an accurate portrayal of the team but there are key storylines that come from this loss that must change if the Cats hope to return to Dallas next April for the Final Four. Andrew Harrison must become a better defender, both he and his brother need to work on their body language versus adversity. Alex Poythress needs to give this team at least 15 minutes a game of consistent rebounding (if not more), and the Wildcats collectively need to develop more mental toughness–to push through fatigue and to counter the chip-on-the-shoulder their opponents bring into a matchup with what they see as a group of over-hyped freshmen.
Coach Cal likes to see that change comes from crisis and these Cats will find themselves in a full-blown crisis mode against this December schedule if they don’t make some changes soon.