Second half struggles spoil night of positive growth for UK


Kentucky head coach John Calipari yells at the Cats during the game against Troy University on Monday, November 20, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 70-62. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

For the first half of UK basketball’s game against Troy, fans finally saw what they had been hoping to see all season.

They saw a first half where UK shot the ball 43 percent, outrebounded Troy 32-17 and only turned the ball over four times. That performance gave UK a 16-point lead heading into halftime.

“I thought the first half – for 20 minutes, man I thought we were good, we had 20 minutes we were really good,” head coach John Calipari said.

Coming out of halftime, it was a different story as UK was outscored by Troy 37-29 in the second half while giving up 12 turnovers.

“I was harder on them in the second half than I want to be,” Calipari said. “I told them, I said, ‘I had to fight you in the second half so we could win the game. You guys were giving up on the game and you just can’t do it.’”

Recap: UK defeats Troy 70-62

The Cats saw their lead shrink down to as much as eight in the second half, which spoiled what appeared to be a night of positive growth for the young UK team.

So what went wrong for UK in the second half? The first place to look is the turnover department.

The Cats have been turnover-prone all season leading up to tonight, and reverted back to that sloppy style of play in the second half. Troy was able to turn UK’s second half turnovers into 13 points.

“There’s got to be some type of pressure when you’re turning the ball over, but I feel like we could’ve just taken care of the ball much better,” Hamidou Diallo said of what caused the turnovers.

Watch: Hamidou Diallo postgame interview

Troy also started slowly creeping back into the game because shots started falling for them after shooting 29 percent in the first half. After UK led by 21 with 10 minutes remaining, Troy went on a 14-5 run in a 5:42 span to make the game competitive. 

The sloppy play forced Calipari to become more vocal in the second half, and fans from all over the arena could hear him scream if they listened carefully.

Wenyen Gabriel witnessed Calipari’s screaming up close, and wasn’t surprised to see him get so loud. 

“He had to, he was loud, it was almost like he was in the Kansas game again,” Gabriel said. “He’s just trying to challenge us to be good.”

Watch: Wenyen Gabriel postgame interview

Calipari didn’t regret getting loud with his team, because if he didn’t, he feared the outcome of the game would be different.

“If that game were closer, we’d lose the game,” Calipari said. 

However, the Cats didn’t lose the game, as they hung on for another close victory over a team they should’ve beat by 20.

The Cats are always happy to get the win, but at some point, they know they can’t keep playing this way, otherwise it could come back to bite them.

“I know Cal is going to go on and say that’s what young teams do, but we’ve got to stop letting go of the rope,” Gabriel said. “That’s one of the things we’ve got to work on if we want to be a championship team.”