A&M Offers Immediate Opportunity for Cats to Turn the Page
For more than a month, Kentucky has played a regular schedule of one game a week, all on Saturdays.
Having a week between games has been a positive for the Wildcats, leaving ample time for extra practices, film sessions and workouts.
For Tyler Herro, the end of that schedule could not come at a better time.
It’s not because he’s tired of Camp Cal. Rather, Herro is thankful to not have to stew on a loss for any longer.
“Finally we don’t play one game a week,” Herro said. “We can come back, have a good practice yesterday, another one today and be able to come back and hopefully bounce back on Tuesday.”
That loss came at the hands of Alabama in both teams’ Southeastern Conference opener. The opportunity to bounce back will come Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the No. 18 Wildcats (10-3, 0-1 SEC) return to Rupp Arena for the first time in three-and-a-half weeks to host Texas A&M (6-6, 0-1 SEC).
“I watched (Texas A&M) play Arkansas,” John Calipari said. “They had Arkansas beat. Arkansas made four 3s down the stretch, and they went 1 for 4 down the stretch from the 3. That’s why they lost or they would have beat Arkansas, so it’s another tough game for us.”
|Kentucky vs. Texas A&M|
Tue., Jan. 8 – 7 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
|.384||Opp 3PT FG%||.322|
Both teams will be looking to get back on the winning track, and Coach Cal is about as eager as Herro to move on from the loss. So that the Cats could completely turn the page, Calipari had the team watch film of the Alabama defeat on Monday morning. There was plenty to absorb.
“We showed them I think 15 or 16 one-foot shots we missed,” Calipari said. “We showed them defensive breakdowns. We showed them we had 25 defensive rebounds. Why no more breakouts? We reverted in a lot of areas. We went back to where we were, and Alabama played well.”
There’s a lesson in that last fact alone.
The Crimson Tide, though a generally strong opponent, played well Saturday. Hustling to every loose ball, playing in front of a raucous home crowd and hitting shots, Alabama was up to play Kentucky. That, likely without exception, will be the case throughout the remainder of SEC play.
“I told them, ‘Teams are going to come, and they’re not going to play bad against us,’ ” Calipari said. “They made some shots and now all of a sudden it’s anybody’s ballgame. I like the fact that we fought to come back, and I said it after the game: You just move on. We lost a couple games this way now that you have your chances to win and should win, and you don’t you give credit to the other team and you move on.”
Though moving on is the goal, it can’t come at the cost of not learning lessons. One of those lessons is that all mistakes, regardless of perceived magnitude, are important ones in the kind of tooth-and-nail battles the Cats should expect the rest of the way.
“We had some guys that were upset they missed shots late,” Calipari said, “and I said, ‘Listen, you gave up two offensive rebounds for baskets late. If we didn’t give those up, that game wouldn’t have been at 11. It would have been seven. Now, all of a sudden it’s a different game and you get it to two or three and instead of with 1:25 left. It’s a different ballgame.’ “
Along the same lines, UK took a step back along their path to becoming “willing passers.” After throwing 325 passes in a solid performance at Louisville, the Cats had just 270 as a team according to Calipari and their spacing suffered.
“We did a really good job in a lot of the games before Alabama of playing together, being unselfish,” Immanuel Quickley said. “I think we kind of reverted, not that we’re a selfish team, but we kind of missed some passes, (not) helping each other on defense, things like that. “
That sort of hiccup is disappointing, no doubt. It’s also close to unavoidable with a young team. Now, all that young team can do is turn the page. Thankfully they get to do so quickly.
“Again, we just kind of reverted, and I wish it didn’t happen but that’s part of a growth of a program,” Calipari said. “They see, ‘Well, the way that you’re asking us to do this is really unselfish and I’d like to be a little more involved, and it’s really hard what you’re asking me to do. I’d like to do it the easier way.’ So, they have these. They’ll revert. Now you have another tough game. Learn from that one and let’s see how they play.”
Late Rally Falls Short as Kentucky Falls at Alabama
No. 13/14 Kentucky rallied from a double-digit, second-half deficit to get within a point late in the game, but the comeback came up just short as the Wildcats lost to Alabama 77-75 on Saturday afternoon in Coleman Coliseum.
Alabama (10-3, 1-0 SEC) led 54-53 with 10:46 to go in the game. That’s when the Crimson Tide assembled an 18-8 run that would seemingly put the game out of reach. By the time the run was over, Alabama led 72-61 with just 3:11 to play.
Kentucky (10-3, 0-1) would not go away quietly. The Wildcats went on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 74-71 with 30 seconds remaining. After Alabama got a pair of free throws from Dazon Ingram with 22 seconds left, Kentucky scored four straight points, on a layup by Ashton Hagans and a dunk by PJ Washington, cutting the Tide lead to 76-75 with five seconds left.
Alabama inbounded the ball, and John Petty was fouled by Tyler Herro. Petty connected on the second of two free throws to give the Tide a two-point lead.
Kentucky had one last chance, but Herro’s 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer missed, and the Tide claimed the victory.
The Wildcats got a balanced scoring effort in the game, with five players in double figures. Washington led the Cats with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Keldon Johnson had 13 points and also added seven boards. Hagans, Herro and Reid Travis each had 12 points for Kentucky. Hagans led Kentucky with six assists and three steals, while Travis had six rebounds.
Three-point shooting was a key factor in the outcome. Kentucky connected on five of its 18 (27.8 percent) shots from behind the arc, while Alabama hit 10 of its 23 (43.5 percent) 3-point attempts. Alabama also won the rebounding battle, 40-32, in a game that had nine ties and 10 lead changes.
Kentucky fell behind by five early in the game, 11-6, but the Wildcats mounted a 7-2 run to tie the game at 13 apiece. Alabama would lead 19-16 when Kentucky went on another run, this one an 11-3 stretch, taking a 27-22 lead with 9:38 remaining in the first half.
Alabama would use an 8-0 run to take a 32-29 lead with 4:17 to go in the first half. From there, the teams battled back and forth until Kentucky scored four of the half’s final six points to lead 40-38 at halftime.
The Crimson Tide opened the second half on an 8-0 run to lead 46-40. Kentucky would battle back to lead 47-46 before Alabama scored four in a row. The Wildcats then scored the next four points to lead 51-50 with 13:32 to go. That would be Kentucky’s final lead of the game.
Alabama’s Tevin Mack led all scorers with 20 points in the first half, and 22 in the game. Kira Lewis, Jr. had 12 points, while Donta Hall added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
• In the 150th meeting between the two schools, UK’s series lead is still 112-38 over Alabama
• The Wildcats’ win streak over Alabama was snapped at 10 games
• UK is now 8-2 in SEC openers under John Calipari
• Kentucky scored 20 points off 17 Alabama turnovers
• UK blocked just one shot, a season low. The Wildcats had tallied four or more blocks in the previous 12 games
• The Wildcats gave up seven Alabama dunks, all to Donta Hall (four) and Herbert Jones (three)
• Kentucky surrendered 10 3-pointers, the fifth time this season they’ve allowed 10 or more treys
• Hagans notched a career high in points for the second game in a row. His six assists fell just one short of his career high
• It was Calipari’s first loss to Alabama head coach Avery Johnson. Calipari’s record is now 7-1 vs. Johnson
S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!
Kentucky has the unquestionable reputation as the league’s gold standard. Since the SEC’s inception in 1932-33, the Wildcats have been the most dominant team in the league, recording a 982-279 mark (.779) in regular-season conference play. Only two other teams have won more than 700 regular-season SEC games (Alabama and Tennessee), and no other team has a better winning percentage.
• Kentucky has averaged 11.6 wins and only 3.3 losses per season in 85 seasons in the SEC
• UK has won 48 SEC titles and 31 SEC Tournament championships
• The Wildcats have won 16 of the last 26 SEC Tournament titles
• Kentucky has won at least a share of five of the last nine SEC regular-season championships under head coach John Calipari
• UK has played in the championship game of the SEC Tournament in eight of Calipari’s nine seasons, winning the tournament six times, including each of the last four
• The SEC won the Big 12/SEC Challenge for the first time with a 6-4 margin in 2018
• Eight teams made the 2018 NCAA Tournament field, the second most of any league in the country and a new conference record. The league went 8-8
• Four teams from the SEC rank in the top 25 of both major polls
• Ten SEC schools rank in the top 75 and four are in the top 25 of the NCAA’s Jan. 6 NET rankings
Kentucky Picked to Win 49th SEC Title
With a mix of seasoned veterans and another crop of talented newcomers, Kentucky will once again be the hunted. Of course that’s the same mantra every season, but a select panel of media confirmed the standard for 2018-19 when it voted the Wildcats to win their sixth regular-season title under 10th-year head coach John Calipari.
Should Kentucky achieve the feat, it would mark the program’s 49th overall regular-season title.
It’s the 14th time since the 1998-99 season the Wildcats are the overall preseason favorite. Calipari has directed his teams to regular-season SEC crowns in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Kentucky has claimed the SEC Tournament title in each of the last four seasons and six in all, winning in 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Each school selected media members that cover their team and additional media from across the nation were selected by the conference office to comprise the voting panel. Points were compiled on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Each media member also voted for two All-SEC teams.
The Wildcats don’t lose very often during the John Calipari era, but when they do, they almost always bounce back. UK improved to 46-12 under Calipari following its loss to Seton Hall with a win over Utah.
The Wildcats have only lost back-to-back games 12 times during the Calipari era with three of those losses having come during a four-game losing streak from Feb. 3-14, 2018. That was the first four-game losing streak under Calipari.
Previously, the last time UK lost four games in a row was in February 2009, when the Wildcats dropped four straight games to end the regular season. It’s the first time Calipari had lost four straight since the end of the 2004-05 season at Memphis.