Life without Nerlens Noel took an immediate free-fall at the hands of Tennessee. After was was described as a horrid practice, John Calipari did not feel too confident about this upcoming contest with the Vols. I guess he had a right to be, but nobody would have predicted such a lopsided outcome. The 30-point defeat is Kentucky’s largest loss to the Vols in the series history, and the 5th worst loss in 80 years of the program.
By The Numbers:
A struggling Tennessee offense executed to perfection against the shell-shocked Wildcats. The Vols shot 58% from the field, which was the best opponent FG% against UK since the 2007 Florida Gators shot 64%. That Florida team went on to win the National Championship. They were also a perfect 5-5 from the 3, and made 25-31 free-throws. The ‘Cats allowed 50 points before halftime, and Tennessee lead by as many as 39 points. Since Nerlens Noel went down at Florida, the ‘Cats have been outscored by 35 points and opponents are shooting 60% from the field. The ‘Cats allowed 19 2nd chance points, and 40 points in the paint. Kentucky finished the game -18 in rebounds, -3 in blocks, -4 in steals, -6 in assists, and didn’t score one single fast-break point.
What went wrong?
Step Up, Grow up
In the style of offense that John Calipari runs, I do not see how a point guard cannot record a single point, assist, rebound, or even a steal! I realize that Jarrod Polson was the starter over Harrow, but he played 18 minutes and did not contribute anything to the good of the team. In the post-game comments, John Calipari said that he has some guys that are just “not coachable” right now. Harrow’s confidence may have been broken when Polson got the start, but it may be shattered now. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m not certain Ryan Harrow will be apart of next year’s roster.In his first audition to be the starting center for Kentucky, Cauley-Stein fouled out of the game with 9:21 left in the 2nd half. He made 1 shot, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and 2 rebounds. How does a guy that stands over 7 feet tall only get 2 rebounds in 23 minutes of game play? Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress score a combined average of 25.3 points per game, they tallied 11 total points.
The players not named Noel did not “show up”, what about that “growing up” thing? Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein both received technical fouls for shoving. After Goodwin showed restraint against Auburn’s Jordan Granger for punching him in the back, I was proud he kept his fists down and didn’t retaliate. The retaliation to an action is what gets everyone in trouble. Both he and WCS retaliated in a childish manner, and that cost the team as a whole. These guys are supposed to be professional basketball players in June? If they cannot handle the mental aspects of the college game, how are they going to battle with grown men?
After arguing a call on a jump-ball situation, assistant coach John Robic was tossed from the game. Calipari said he didn’t believe that Robic said enough to merit the technical foul and get thrown out. At that point, Calipari knew that the game was going to get out of hand and fast. I’m not going to put any blame on John Robic for arguing a call that he thought was right. I only mention him because his ejection officially put the ‘Cats in free-fall.
Did anything go right? Believe it or not, yes.
Wiltjer, Polson, & Mays:
When Polson starts over Harrow, and Wiltjer starts over Poythress, you just have a feeling something is definitely wrong. The only things that went right in this game for the ‘Cats came from these three guys. Take a look at each player in that headline. Each guy has at least one year of college experience. Kyle Wiltjer has been the leader at times this year. He’s stepped up in practice, the weight room, and with his on the court production. He finished with 18 points. Julius Mays seemingly fell into our laps after deciding to come to Kentucky and complete his college career. After saving the ‘Cats in an OT game vs. A&M, he has been as consistent as anyone all year. Mays finished with 12 points. Jarrod Polson uses every once of energy, and every inch of his 6’2” frame to be the best he can be on the floor. Polson’s energy and toughness is a rare find with this collection of ‘Cats. He earned his first career start against the Vols, and finished the game with 11 points.
The rest of the SEC schedule does not look promising. Even with Nerlens Noel, the ‘Cats only defeated Vanderbilt (their next opponent) by a missed three-point attempt at the buzzer. Hosting Missouri and Florida would not be a cake-walk even with the services of Noel. Going on the road to Georgia and Arkansas doesn’t look any more promising. Kentucky will need a win against Missouri or Florida to keep themselves in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament birth. Doing damage in the SEC Tournament will help, and keep them off of the bubble come Selection Sunday. If there is any chance of seeing Kentucky in the tournament, the stepping up and growing up starts now.