Wash, Rinse and Repeat: Offense stalls, Cats drop to 5-10 with loss to ‘Bama


Kentucky Wildcats guard Devin Askew (2) motions for a teammate during the University of Kentucky vs. Alabama men’s basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 85-65. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Braden Ramsey

Another game, another disheartening result. Kentucky fought valiantly down in Tuscaloosa, but scored only eight points in the final 7:24 of action, going ice cold at the absolute worst moment in its 70-59 vanquishment at the hands of the Crimson Tide.

The Cats made just two of their final nine shot attempts and coughed up the rock five times during that aforementioned stretch, turning what could have been a season-defining win into a misrepresentative double-digit margin of defeat.

“We had our chances,” John Calipari said postgame. “We, again, got out-toughed… not throughout the game, but the last three minutes, dudes backed away. Playing not to lose versus playing to win.”

“It just makes me sick.”

The lack of a shot creator once again doomed Kentucky, as nobody was able to fashion a quality scoring chance for himself off the bounce. Calipari reiterated that this group doesn’t possess anyone who can consistently do such a thing.

“Look, we don’t have a guy we can throw it to, and he goes one-on-one and gets by anybody,” he said. “We don’t have that guy… we gotta do it different.”

Graduate transfer Olivier Sarr says the key for the team pulling out these tight outings – which this was for the vast majority of the evening – is maintaining its mindset for the game’s entirety.

“For us, it’s just staying locked in all the way through for 40 minutes,” he told reporters. “We see what we can do for a good part of the game… we did some great things defensively. We just can’t break down at the end. We can’t let go [with] three more minutes to go.”

The defense put up a completely different performance than it did the first time the two schools matched up, holding the Tide to 39% shooting from the field and just six three-pointers. In fact, Alabama didn’t hit a shot in the second half until the 9:48 mark.

But the Cats, playing with an uncharacteristic – but warranted – level of desperation for a regular season game, negated that effectiveness by putting guys at the line. They were whistled 18 times in the final 20 minutes, giving the Crimson Tide 26 free throws – 22 makes – in that stretch.

“We must have fouled and they didn’t,” Coach Cal said afterward.

Sarr was more forgiving in his assessment.

“We kind of messed up sometimes in our rotations. We got beat on the dribble, man to man,” he said. “We weren’t tough enough to stay in front of the guy… that’s what cost us.”

While the ending is what BBN has become accustomed to, Calipari refuses to lose hope for this group, lauding their fight and the opportunity their schedule presents.

“Let me say this about my team: they fought like crazy,” he said. “We’ve got all kinds of games left. We’re going to have six or seven ranked [opponents]… Terrence [Clarke] comes back and all of a sudden we’re a different team.”

The upcoming slate can only serve Kentucky well if it figures out how to put away leads. The results thus far don’t provide optimism that cause, but Cal sounded up to the challenge.

“My belief is that we’re going to break through… [but] I’ve got to teach them how to win,” he said. “Let’s win the last four minutes of every game… let me show you how to do it.”

Calipari and staff have five days to do so before facing their next potentially year-altering foe. No. 5 Texas strolls into Rupp Arena on Saturday evening, looking to further cement itself as one of the top teams in a loaded Big 12. Falling to the Longhorns would all but eliminate the Cats from at-large consideration. If tonight wasn’t their last gasp, Saturday likely will be.

Tip is set for 8:00 p.m. E.T. on ESPN.