COLUMN: Cats, Calipari can’t find source of losses

Brandon Knight let go of the ball with less than a second remaining in overtime, but UK fans didn’t need to watch. They’d been here before.

It’s not that Knight doesn’t have the ability to hit in the clutch, and it’s not that UK isn’t better than Arkansas. It’s that UK wasn’t in Rupp Arena. It’s impossible to pinpoint what happens to the Cats when they leave Lexington.

They still average fewer than 11 turnovers, hit their shots and play the same defenses. In fact, UK held Arkansas to less than 40 percent from the field.

Over the course of the year, UK head coach John Calipari has said his team has had a target on its back, but more teams seem to be hitting it than in the past.

In Wednesday’s 77-76 loss, UK dropped its sixth conference game. This is the first UK team to drop six Southeastern Conference road games since Arkansas joined the league during the SEC expansion in 1991. It’s also the first UK team to lose four straight conference road games since the end of the 2006-07 season.

Not only is this team becoming accustomed to losing road games, but it’s used to losing by extremely thin margins. Its average margin of defeat on the road is just three points.

Last-second losses have now come in their last three road games, and the Cats hope Wednesday would be the night it all turned around.

Knight had a pair of opportunities of the close of regulation, and another chance at the end of overtime. None connected.

Unlike his failure to call a timeout at the end of UK’s game in Gainesville, Calipari did call one for the last possession in Fayetteville. The issue is that the plays in both towns looked eerily similar, involving rushed, low-percentage shots from outside the arc.

Running screens to line up threes isn’t the worst option with a sharp-shooting team like this one, but with such quick players, getting them 15-footers inside the arc is going to lead to better chances, especially if they can find a way to get Josh Harrellson to clean them up.

While the final play was drawn to hit Harrellson on the post, the play still wasn’t executed. And UK had two chances at game-winning shots.

Fortunately for the Cats, they only have one more road game remaining. Unfortunately for the Cats, its against a Tennessee team that desperately needs a win to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive.

The Cats have an opportunity to get their feet back under them with two more home games before heading to Knoxville.

The game against the Vols will either serve as an opportunity to restore confidence, or crumble morale before heading into the postseason, and Calipari has to find a way to turn the tides before March. The problem is, like everyone else, he’s still trying to figure out exactly what is going wrong when his guys aren’t in Rupp.