Vols dominate Cats, 88-58



By David Schuh | @DSchuhKernel

[email protected]

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The UK men’s basketball team traveled to Tennessee Saturday to begin a seven-game season. They had a blank slate to prove they were a team worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid.

And for everyone in a blue jersey, it could not have gone any worse.

The Cats were dominated by the Volunteers, 88-58, the worst loss for a UK team since February 2008.

“It was very disappointing on our part,” sophomore Kyle Wiltjer said. “We didn’t come out of the gate with any fire and aggressiveness and they jumped on us early.”

In its first game without freshman center Nerlens Noel, UK had no answer defensively for anything Tennessee did. They attacked the basket like no team has this season, largely because Noel’s defensive presence was no longer there.

The Vols used a 19-2 run in the first half to blow the game open, taking a 21-point lead after just ten minutes. They shot 58 percent from the field for the game, including 5-5 from the three-point line.

The Cats were called for 25 fouls, with three players fouling out. They were outrebounded 42-22, their worst margin of the season.

“They deserved to beat us by 50 today,” Calipari said. “They played harder, they played rougher … I’ll burn the tape. I’m not watching this one.”

The game got out of hand several times. UK assistant coach John Robic was ejected midway through the first half for arguing a jump ball that the visitor’s bench believed was miscalled.

Also, freshmen Willie Cauley-Stein and Archie Goodwin were both issued technical fouls for shoving.

The Cats were overwhelmed in every facet. Without Noel, Calipari said, the team has not responded well.

“They were awful in practice,” Calipari said. “Yesterday was our worst practice in four years … We’ve got a couple guys that are basically not real coachable.”

Wiltjer led UK with 18 points, albeit on 5-15 shooting. Cauley-Stein and freshman guard Archie Goodwin each had four turnovers, part of 15 total for the Cats.

“The way they played and the way we played, we’d have gotten beat even with Nerlens,” Calipari said.

UK now has to prepare for a game at home against Vanderbilt that they desperately need to win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. But, if Calipari doesn’t get his team to turn it around, the remaining six games of the season will give Cats fans a similar feeling to what they got on Saturday.

“I’m going to try whatever I can,” Calipari said. “It doesn’t look good right now.”