Kentucky falls to Auburn on road; drops to 4-8 on season


Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari puts his head in his hands during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Kansas men’s basketball game at the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kansas won 65-62. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Braden Ramsey

The Cats followed up an awful performance against Alabama on Tuesday night with another poor outing Saturday afternoon, hitting just 40% of their shots in their 66-59 loss to the Crimson Tide’s in-state brethren Tigers.

Kentucky’s defense was again on point, holding the Tigers to 38% shooting overall and a paltry 21% (5-of-24) from three-point range. Auburn opened the game just 1-for-15 from the floor, but the Cats failed to take advantage offensively, leading only 9-2 at the 11:00 minute mark of the first half.

“We defended the way you defend to win games [but] no one wanted to shoot… We missed wide-open shots,” John Calipari said postgame. “We had our chances… we should have been up big at the half, and I can’t believe we weren’t.”

The long-time coach attributed some of that to players making things more complicated than necessary, and a lack of toughness. The Cats gave up 12 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes, helping Auburn hold a 26-19 overall board advantage at the break.

“We could have made easy plays and we didn’t. We made the hardest one,” he said. “We should be able to battle back.”

Dontaie Allen and Jacob Toppin each had eight points at halftime, helping Kentucky to a 25-21 margin despite the bad shooting and rebound numbers. But neither saw the floor to begin the second half, which raised eyebrows among media members and fans alike.

Allen’s time on the bench was particularly puzzling. After being lauded for bringing a different element to the offense – and continuing to with two three-pointers – he saw just eight minutes of action and with only two shot attempts. Calipari says that was part of the reason the redshirt sophomore guard remained on the bench.

“We were running plays for Dontaie and he wouldn’t shoot the ball,” he said. “We ran two things for him with shots and he wouldn’t take them.”

Allen (+11) and Lance Ware (+5) were the only players with a positive plus-minus for the game, while struggling star prospect B.J. Boston had the third lowest (-13). The Sierra Canyon product knocked down two of nine shots – including one of four from behind the arc – and missed his only free throw, tacking another rough display to what has been a dismal season thus far.

Because of this, many wondered why he was again on the court to start the second half in lieu of Allen. Cal told reporters that while he wants to come out of each game victorious, he doesn’t want to pull out anyone’s will out in the process.

“I want to win every game I coach, but on the other side, I’m not trying to take anyone’s heart away,” he said. “You can sub them three minutes in and go. We didn’t start the half that bad.”

No matter how the final portion began, the result was all too familiar in this trudging season. The Cats aren’t near the NCAA Tournament radar with their current record, and unless something changes, they won’t be playing for that ninth banner when March rolls around.

“We all have to step up and make shots,” Toppin said afterward. “That’s when we will start playing basketball and winning games.” 

Kentucky’s next opportunity to do that comes Wednesday night in Athens, when they’ll face off with Tom Crean’s Georgia Bulldogs. Tip is set for 7:00 p.m. E.T. on SEC Network.