Calipari’s adjustments weren’t enough to get a win over UT


Sophomore forward Nick Richards walks off of the court at halftime. 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

After an 86-69 UK domination in Rupp Arena a few weeks ago, the roles were reversed Saturday afternoon in Knoxville. The Wildcats took a 71-52 loss to the Volunteers in Thompson-Boling Arena, but this time, there was a slight difference. The Cats were without big man Reid Travis, although Kentucky head coach John Calipari says it’s no excuse. 

“It wasn’t that. They beat us. There’s no excuses. We got beat every which way but loose,” Calipari said post-game. “Our young kids played like freshmen, played like deer in headlights.”

That being said, Calipari also acknowledged the absence of Reid Travis as a disadvantage at the end of his press conference.

“We don’t have the same team,” Calipari said. “I mean, Reid’s not here. So you’re going to have a role reversal like that.”

Saturday made for Kentucky’s third game without Travis after the graduate student suffered a right knee sprain on the road at Missouri. The Cats made adjustments, starting freshman EJ Montgomery in place of Travis against Auburn and Arkansas, but against the Volunteers, Calipari went with sophomore Nick Richards in the starting lineup instead. 

“I thought Nick played great in the first half, and then he couldn’t get a block, they were shooting layups on him,” Calipari said. 

Richards earned four points, four rebounds and two blocks in the first half, while totaling four points, three rebounds and one block in the second. 

A huge issue for the Cats was early foul trouble. At halftime, Richards and Montgomery each had three fouls, while starters PJ Washingon and Keldon Johnson had two apiece. 

“Foul trouble didn’t put us in that situation, we put ourselves in that situation,” Richards said. “It was kind of hard when you don’t have another big to go up to. We didn’t do the execution our coaches told us to. We just didn’t bring it today.”

Calipari says the difference between last time playing UT and this time around was that in Rupp Arena his own team was the aggressor, but in Knoxville, the Vols were the aggressor. Not having Travis in the mix is a big part of that, according to coach Calipari, because his “toughness” and “consistency” is what they missed most from him today. 

“His consistency of play is amazing,” Calipari said. “… Reid is going to give you what he gives you every minute he’s on the floor. So you miss that consistency.”

Although the Richards/Montgomery duo couldn’t completely fill the void from Travis being gone, Calipari is still proud of Richards.

“And again I’m happy for Nick, believe me. When we get a half right now out of him until he builds himself into that, I’m happy with it,” Calipari said. 

But does Calipari think this loss will affect their tournament seed?

“No, because other teams have lost and gone up in the polls,” he joked.