Cats stumble in Spokane, lose to Gonzaga 88-72


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) reacts to a play during the No. 4 Kentucky vs. Michigan State Champions Classic mens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Michigan State won 86-77 in the second overtime. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Ali Cetinok, Assistant Sports Editor

No.4 Kentucky was defeated 88-72 against No.2 Gonzaga on Sunday, falling to 3-2 on the season thus far.

Traveling into a hostile environment, despite the game technically being held at a neutral site, like the Spokane Arena, the Cats suffered a slow start to the night, going down 8-0 almost immediately. 

The deficit forced Kentucky to play from behind the entire game, something it was never able to overcome, with the Cats not leading at any point in Spokane.

The Wildcats went 8-34 from the field in the first half, missing all ten attempts from beyond the arc to find themselves with their largest halftime deficit since Dec. 12, 2020, against Notre Dame (22 points) and their largest halftime deficit in a non-COVID season game since trailing Duke 59-42 in the 2018 Champions Classic.

Down by 16 points at the half, the figure was boosted by the fact that the Cats also went scoreless in the last 2:11 of half one.

Kentucky fought back in the second half to cut into the Gonzaga lead with a 20-6 run, but the Zags would go on to pull away in the end to claim a top five matchup victory.

Gonzaga had three players with 20 or more points against Kentucky. Drew Timme, who had his name thrown around by UK fans as a potential transfer, had 20 points and 15 rebounds with Rasir Bolton also notching 24 points to lead all scorers. Julian Strawther also finished with 20 points to his name as well.

While the defense was unable to handle the Zags, the biggest issue UK had against the Bulldogs was its shooting percentage with John Calipari’s squad shooting 39% from the field and going 6-25 from three.

“Well, we missed every shot. So, you can say what you want. We missed every shot,” Calipari said. “You don’t have to make them all, you just can’t miss them all and expect to be in the game with a good team.”

With questions being asked of the team’s fight on Sunday, Calipari believes there needs to be understanding about the effort levels of his squad.

“I’ll just play different guys, whoever wants to fight. I’m going to play different guys. I got enough guys,” Calipari said. “I let those guys get in there and fight and understand, when you’re in your own head about how you’re playing instead of just playing for us, and we’re training every day about playing a certain way, play that way.”

The Wildcats return to action inside Rupp Arena and will seek to bounce back against North Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. EST. The game will stream live on the SEC Network+.