Didn’t catch UK Sports over winter break? Here’s what you missed


Isabel McSwain

Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Barion Brown (2) runs the ball during the Kentucky vs. Iowa Music City Bowl football game on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. UK lost 21-0. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff

Luke Fetzer, Reporter

The Winter months are considered by some to be the absolute peak of Kentucky’s athletic department.

With crucial early matchups of both mens and womens basketball, a potential bowl game journey and numerous other events, UK Athletics gives fans plenty of enjoyable moments over the holiday break. 

This break, however, left many UK fans in a state of discontent, with nearly all of the high-profile teams being soundly defeated by their foes. 

Entering his 14th season with the program with a lifetime contract to his name, mens basketball coach John Calipari led reigning national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe and his squad to attempt to repeat the glory of the 2011-12 season in which Kentucky won the national championship. 

Despite losing to then No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 7 UCLA early on, the Cats showed promise, but ultimately lacked that definitive offensive edge that set them apart in seasons past. 

Over the break, the Cats were slated to play Florida A&M, which they defeated 88-68 in the second annual “Unity Series”, Louisville, which it also defeated 86-63, and SEC opponents Missouri, LSU and No. 7 Alabama. 

Unfortunately for Kentucky, it did not shine in those matchups, falling in Columbia 89-75, narrowly edging out LSU 74-71 at home and being run off the court in a 78-52 blowout against Alabama.

This poor form is relatively uncommon for a Kentucky team of this stature and has led many to criticize Calipari himself, with some particularly disgruntled fans even calling for personnel and tactical changes, while others call for Calipari himself to be changed.

The loss to Alabama was especially crushing, with the 26-point difference being the second highest margin of defeat in the SEC under Calipari. 

The Cats currently sit at 10-6 overall, 1-3 in SEC play, placing them in 12th place, just above Florida and Ole Miss.

With it still being somewhat early in the season, Calipari still has time to alter his play calling schemes, but patience, especially from UK fans, is a hard commodity in the world of college basketball. 

Kentucky womens basketball also had a busy winter break, taking on seven games and, like their male counterparts, left fans with much to be desired. 

The women first faced off with Murray State, coming up short 51-44 inside Memorial Coliseum in the Racers’ first win over Kentucky since 1973.

Since then, it defeated Ohio University 95-86 but lost to all other opponents, being conquered 69-63 by Florida Gulf Coast and being winless in the SEC, losing 74-71 against Missouri, 71-50 against Arkansas, 64-60 against Georgia and most recently 67-48 against LSU.

Head coach Kyra Elzy and her team’s struggles have landed them in 13th in the SEC with a record of 8-8 overall and 0-4 in SEC play. 

Kentucky football also finished up its season with a repeat matchup against Iowa in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. 

Unlike the first matchup, the bowl did not hold as much weight for many fans with stars such as quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. deciding to sit out and continue to focus on the NFL combine and draft. 

This left the Cats in a precarious situation.

Three backup quarterbacks, sophomore Deuce Hogan and two freshmen, Kaiya Sheron and Destin Wade, hoped to earn the starting role, but head coach Mark Stoops declined to name the starter until the team actually took the field on New Year’s Eve. 

In the actual matchup the Cats were ultimately defeated by their own mistakes, with Wade, who was named the starter, throwing two pick-sixes that cost the team 14 points. 

The lack of offensive momentum in the wake of offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s firing led the Cats to punt 10 times, the highest total ever recorded in the Music City Bowl. 

In the end, the Cats were shut out for the first time in program postseason history, losing 21-0 and falling to 2-4 in Music City Bowls, in which Kentucky holds the record for most appearances at six. 

With the void left by Levis and Rodriguez Jr. seemingly solved by NC State transfer quarterback Devin Leary and Vanderbilt transfer rusher Re’Mahn Davis, as well as the reintroduction of offensive coordinator Liam Coen, the future of the Wildcat offense looks far brighter than that of the unit on display in the bowl game. 

Other notable sports that took place over break included track and field, gymnastics and swimming and diving of which all the aforementioned teams performed far better than the televised programs. 

With the 2023 spring semester officially underway, both fans and student-athletes alike will hope to begin the new year with resounding victories as all teams still in play begin to look ahead toward their respective postseasons.