Cats show regression, lack of fight in loss at Florida


Malik Monk reacts to a foul during the Wildcat’s game against the Florida Gators on February 4, 2017 at the Stephen O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fl.

Chris Angolia

For the first time all season, No. 8 UK men’s basketball was completely out-fought and out-hustled for 40 minutes, resulting in an 88-66 loss to No. 24 Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

Being out-hustled and out-played in a game like Saturday’s has become yet another red-flag for a struggling Cats team that has lost three of its last four games. And had it not been for freshman guard Malik Monk’s heroic 37-point performance in the team’s overtime win against Georgia, and more specifically his shot at the end of regulation to send it into OT, UK would be on a four game losing streak.

Having lost three of four, it is obvious that this year’s UK team is in a funk, and along with the never outspoken Big Blue Nation, Calipari is well aware of the aforementioned struggles.

“We need to go back and get in a groove of how we play defense,” Calipari said after the game. “The other side of this, and what I don’t think they get yet is that every game they play is like this. It gets to where every game you walk in to you are trying to get going. I just want to see the fight.”

The ‘fight’ that Calipari was talking about is something that this year’s team has not lacked up until Saturday’s game at Florida, and no stat was more telling than the Gators out-rebounding UK 54-29.

Losing a game because you are out-played is one thing – just as the Cats were at Louisville and Tennessee – but to be out-fought and out-hustled when you are clearly the more talented as superior team is another thing. With the exceptions of the UCLA and Kansas losses, UK has been the best team on the floor in most games and that included Saturday’s matchup with the Gators, but the Cats just simply did not show it and instead showed a sense of disinterest in Saturday’s game.

That sense of disinterest and being out-hustled have been a big part of the teams struggles that began two weeks ago. Not only that, but these last two weeks were supposed to start showing the teams progression rather than regression, but instead, lackluster basketball has paved the way for this slump that the Cats find themselves in the midst of.

“I told them ‘you have to play better,’” Calipari said. “Part of that is you are trying to do stuff you don’t need to do. And sometimes you have to hit bottom, and maybe we have hit bottom, or maybe we haven’t hit bottom. But I knew after Tennessee that we had an issue. I said to them ‘you are going to lose the next two or three if you do not change.”

Now while there have been Calipari coached teams that have struggled like this, if not more at this point in the season, it is not the most ideal time for the Cats to start being out-hustled and out-fought.

If a team comes out and shoots the lights out, while not ideal, it still is better than UK being out-battled regardless of talent levels. But while Calipari may be frustrated with his team right now, he knows what he has with this team and does not want to abandon them just yet.

“I still love this team,” Calipari said. “I think we have a talented group. We got to get back into what we have to do and be real specific with it.”