Looking back at UK’s regular season SEC losses


UT’s Admiral Schofield makes a face after a dunk. UK men’s basketball team lost to Tennessee 71-52 at Thompson Bowling Arena on Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Chase Campbell

As the Cats wrap up another regular season in the upper echelon of the SEC, the Kernel staff breaks down the games that didn’t go UK’s way. Why did they happen? What do they mean for the upcoming tournament?

Jan. 5 – Alabama, 77-75

Fresh off a pair of convincing wins against North Carolina and Louisville, both away from home, the Cats started their SEC schedule the wrong way. They held their own in the first half, surviving a three-point barrage from Tevin Mack, who would go on to make six threes in eight attempts. They lost their 40-38 halftime lead, though, when they went ice cold from the field in the second half.

The Cats started settling for jump shots, making only three of their 12 three-point attempts. The Alabama offense shot only slightly worse than they did in the first half, and their consistency led them to a pretty big lead over Kentucky. A brief run and a three-pointer that rattled out by Tyler Herro meant the Cats would start the conference schedule 0-1.

This loss stings on the resume similarly to the Seton Hall loss earlier in the season, but since it was so long ago, it’s not as representative of who they are as a team now. Still, it’ll probably put a top seed in danger more than any other game.

Feb. 12 – LSU, 73-71

This game is the center of controversy this season, especially with LSU facing real legal and potential NCAA ramifications for an unrelated recruiting scandal. UK built up a nine-point lead in the second half, and forced Tremont Waters to shoot an uncharacteristically bad 3-13 from the floor.

It was another case, unfortunately, of the Cats not being able to sustain a lead through the second half. The Tiger offense shot over 50 percent in the second, as opposed to Kentucky’s 33 percent. P.J. Washington had a good game, scoring 20 points and grabbing nine boards, but LSU’s offensive rhythm pretty much destroyed Kentucky’s lack of one.

The reason the game is so controversial, however, is because of how the game was won. On the game-winning play, Waters drove to the hoop with nearly no time remaining and missed the layup. Kavell Bigby-Williams tipped the ball back in before time expired to win the game. However, the ball was clearly still inside the hoop when Bigby-Williams touched it, warranting an offensive basket interference call.

Unfortunately for the Cats, that’s not something that can be reviewed on replay, and the basket was counted on the floor. LSU escaped, but dominated the second half to do so. This loss would hurt the Cats more if LSU didn’t just win the SEC regular season title.

March 3 – Tennessee, 71-52

Easily the worst offensive show by the Cats across the entire conference schedule, the Cats ran into a buzzsaw when they faced the revenge-minded Volunteers. After Tennessee was embarrassed with a 17-point loss at College GameDay in Rupp Arena, they took advantage of a Cats team that was reeling and didn’t have Reid Travis.

Point guard Jordan Bone took advantage of the Cats not having their enforcer inside, shooting 11-15 from the floor and 5-5 from deep for 27 points without a free throw attempt. Not having Travis also meant the Cats had a problem guarding Grant Williams, who scored 24.

The Tennessee defense held UK’s three highest scorers (Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro) to a combined 6-26, shutting the Cats down for their lowest point total all season. This game won’t count against them too much come tournament time, because it was against a top team while missing one of their best players.