Fans should not abandon ship after Tuesday’s blowout

Going into the Tuesday night’s Vanderbilt game, UK had taken five steps forward.

Wins over Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn and Alabama brought the Cats back from the dead and into the thick of the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division race.

Then they played Vanderbilt.

UK went down to Nashville and got destroyed 93-52 by the Commodores. They were down 41-11 at halftime, and trailed by as many as 43 in the game. Ashley Judd, who hasn’t made many appearances at UK games recently, chose the wrong one to attend.

The way the game turned out, it seems like UK negated those five steps forward by taking about 10 steps back. That’s just not true.

It was just one game.

All the UK fans ready to abandon ship on this season (again) — stop. Seven games still remain. There’s time to forget about this one.

But, with that said, it needs to be mentioned that we just witnessed one of the worst performances ever by a UK basketball team. A case could even be made that it was the worst.

In the history of UK basketball, the Cats have only lost by more than 41 points four times. Three of those games were played between 1910 and 1925, way before the shot clock, and way before the sport was mastered by players and coaches.

With so many low moments in the game, it’s hard to pick the lowest. Among the nominees is Ross Neltner, a Fort Thomas, Ky., product overlooked by UK during his high school days, outscoring the Cats 15-14 at one point in the second half. Another is the five-second call on Derrick Jasper in the first half when none of his teammates were on the same side of halfcourt as him to help inbound the ball.

Back to the point: One game didn’t erase the five previous games. UK didn’t drop from 6-2 in the league to 2-6 with the loss. The Cats are 6-3 and are still very much alive for a bye in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

To get that, the Cats are certainly going to have to make some major improvements from the Vandy game.

They’re going to have to find other ways to score when freshman Patrick Patterson is quintuple teamed and when he gets in foul trouble. They’re going to have to learn to keep the intensity up on defense when the shots aren’t falling. They’re going to have to learn how to not let the game get out of hand on the road when they fall behind.

But they have time to do that because this one loss doesn’t end their season.

UK has three games left (at Louisiana State, Georgia, at South Carolina) that it should be favored in. UK also has four games left against quality opponents (Arkansas, Ole Miss, at Tennessee, Florida) that can boost its NCAA Tournament resume.

Win five of those — they won five in a row before the Vanderbilt game, so why can’t they win 5 out of 7? — and the Cats are probably back in the Big Dance bubble conversation.

Remember how good they were on defense in those five games. Remember how seniors Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford were going a long way to reshaping their UK legacies in those five games. This one was just one game.

If they can return to that form, the Vanderbilt game could become a distant memory.

Jonathan Smith is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected].