Kentucky Hopes to Bounce Back Against Alabama on Saturday
After playing their best basketball of the season in recent weeks, Kentucky went through a much different experience on Tuesday at Tennessee. The Cats were not as sharp as they had been of late in falling to the Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena, snapping a six-game winning streak in the process.
On Saturday, the Cats get a chance to bounce back, but it will not be an easy task. Kentucky faces No. 25 Alabama at Rupp Arena. The Cats might have needed a wake-up call, according to guard Davion Mintz.
“We did. I wish it could have been a practice wake-up call but it happened in a game,” Mintz said. “We still have a really great team and we’re just going to keep pushing. It’s better to happen now than March.”
Forward Oscar Tshiebwe, the favorite for National Player of the Year, thinks the Cats have responded well to Tuesday’s loss.
|Kentucky vs. Alabama|
|.296||Opp 3PT FG%||.320|
“We had a talk with the coaches and everybody. It is not a time to think about whatever happened,” Tshiebwe said. “It is time to come back. We had a good practice yesterday, we’re going to have a good practice today. Time to move on. We’ve just got to get better. It’s not going to be easy. It’s always going to get harder and harder.”
So, what does Tshiebwe think the Cats can do to propel themselves in the right direction?
“We stay positive, we trust in each other, we stay together and just getting ready for the battle tomorrow,” he said.
Tshiebwe doesn’t think the Cats had grown overconfident or cocky during their recent string of solid play. He just knows that other teams are always going to give the Cats their best shots.
“We’ve got to stay focused. Sometimes, when you beat some people and you start thinking that you’re better than everybody. We’ve got to think like it’s going to be a war,” Tshiebwe said. “Everybody is going to come at you. We’ve got to keep fighting. We’re going to keep working, keep climbing. It’s not going to be easy.”
Saturday will be the second meeting between the Cats and the Tide over the course of the last two weeks. Earlier this month, Kentucky won in Tuscaloosa 66-55 behind a strong defensive effort and a balanced offense that put five players in double figures. TyTy Washington Jr. led the Cats with 15 points.
Alabama is known as a team that shoots, and makes, a lot of three-pointers. However, the Tide made just three of 30 against the Cats the first time around. That’s well under the Tide’s average of 9.03 threes made per contest, which is the best in the SEC.
Kentucky will have a chance to prove that Tuesday’s game was just a blip on the radar. But the opposition is formidable and the Cats will need to be on their game to get back in the win column.
No. 4 Kentucky Falls at No. 16 Tennessee
Santiago Vescovi scored 18 points and Chandler Kennedy added 17 to lead No. 16/13 Tennessee to a 76-63 victory over No. 4/3 Kentucky on Tuesday night.
Zakai Zeigler and John Fulkerson each added 14 points as the Volunteers (19-6, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) ran their home recordto 14-0 this season with their eighth straight SEC victory.
The Wildcats (21-5, 10-3) were led by Oscar Tshiebwe’s 13 points and 15 rebounds, his eighth-straight double-double and 20th ofthe season. Jacob Toppin and Davion Mintz each scored 11 points off the bench.
Tennessee led by 14 at halftime. Kentucky cut the difference to eight midway through the second half. That’s when the Vols wenton a 12-0 run, holding Kentucky scoreless for nearly five minutes.
The teams split the regular-season series, as exactly one month earlier, Kentucky defeated Tennessee 107-79 in Lexington.
Calipari Named to Naismith Coach of the Year Watch List
With his team firmly in the discussion as one of the nation’s best, Kentucky coach John Calipari was recognized for another stellar coaching job with inclusion to the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Late Season Watch List.
Rebounding from one of the toughest seasons in Kentucky’s history, Calipari finds himself leading a 21-5 Kentucky squad that is ranked No. 3 in the country and is one of only three teams in the nation to rank among the nation’s best in both offensive and defensive efficiency and is in the mix for one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
As a result, he’s being considered by the best coaching job of the season. He’s one of 15 coaches being considered. Mark Adams (Texas Tech), Ed Cooley (Providence), Scott Drew (Baylor), Mark Few (Gonzaga), Steve Forbes (Wake Forest), Greg Gard (Wisconsin) Jeff Linder (Wyoming), Tommy Lloyd (Arizona), Bob McKillop (Davidson), Matt McMahon (Murray State), Bruce Pearl (Auburn), Kelvin Sampson (Houston), Shaka Smart (Marquette) and Brad Underwood (Illinois) complete the list.
Calipari is already one of just two coaches to win the Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year three times, tied with Duke’s Mike Kzryzewski (1989, 1992, 1999) for the most Naismith honors. Calipari is looking to become the first four-time winner of the award. He last won it in 2015.
This season has featured a few milestones for Calipari.
Calipari earned his 800th career win in 2021-22. At the time he was on of just 22 coaches, regardless of NCAA level of classification, to reach that barrier. Only 14 coaches have done it with at least 10 seasons at the Division I Level.
In reaching the 800-win plateau, Calipari became the fourth-fastest coach to the milestone. He achieved the feat in 1,037 games. Only Adolph Rupp (972), Roy Williams (1,012) and Dean Smith (1,029) did it faster.
Now with 805 on-court victories, Calipari is tied with Rick Byrd for 13th for the most victories in Division I history.
He also surpassed 200 wins inside of Rupp Arena which is the most of any Kentucky coach in the venue. The Wildcats have won 16 straight inside the building dating back to last season and are 15-0 on the year.