UK reflects on season positively after sudden loss


Kentucky sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones comforts freshman guard Quade Green on the bench during the game against Kansas State in the NCAA Sweet 16 on Friday, March 23, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia. Kentucky was defeated 61-58. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Thursday’s loss in the Sweet 16 was a tough pill to swallow for UK, especially considering the Cats’ route to the Final Four appeared to be much easier than what it was on Selection Sunday.

However, the road wasn’t easy enough, as the Cats ended their season in the Sweet 16 with a loss to Kansas. The loss was unexpected and shocking, but UK is still trying to take away the positives from the roller coaster season.

“We went through so much together that I don’t know what I would be doing without these guys,” Hamidou Diallo said after the loss. “If I had to go through it again, I would want to go through it with these guys, we made such a strong bond.” 

The season was a wild one for sure. It featured the first four-game losing streak in the John Calipari-era, two 30-point performances from freshmen, a game-winner in overtime and a run to the Sweet 16.

But that’s where it ends, with certainty wasn’t UK’s goal for the season. Now the Cats are left to look back on the relationships they built in the last eight months.

“With the brothers that I got right here, it’s hard to end the season with them,” Quade Green said.

What makes the ending of the season harder is how the Sweet 16 game went. The Cats did not execute their game plan, and only led for 2:32 of the game.

Kansas State was able to control the pace of the game, plus 51 total foul calls from the officials prevented UK’s offense from finding its rhythm. It especially impacted PJ Washington, who missed 12 free throws in the game off 20 attempts. 

Washington will certainly have a hard time forgiving himself with all the missed free throws, but it won’t change his feelings of the season as a whole.

“This was one of my favorite years of my whole life, just being here in Lexington, Kentucky, with all 12 of these guys just made me better everyday, especially Coach Cal just pushing me to be better in practice and everything,” Washington said. “Wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Every player was pushed in practice, and every player grew throughout the season, some on the court and some off the court. 

“Coach Cal and the coaching staff just did a great job of teaching me how to become a man, and teaching me how to become a better basketball player and teaching me how to handle adversity, how to handle myself on and off the court,” Diallo said. 

Many times in the postseason, Calipari called this year one of his most rewarding years of coaching. Even with the sudden season-ending loss, Calipari still took a lot away from this season.

“For me to see how individual players got better, for me to see how this team came together, for me to see Jarred (Vanderbilt) in, Jarred out, all the stuff that went on with injuries, and they hung in there and played a bunch of freshmen,” Calipari said.

The Cats might not have hung a ninth national championship banner in Rupp Arena like they wanted to, but they now have relationships and growth that will last them a lifetime.

“It was a great season and I loved playing with these guys,” Washington said.