Quade Green’s ability to make jump shots returned in Kentucky’s 61-59 loss to Tennessee on Tuesday. Afterward, his penchant for making bold pronouncements also resurfaced.
“We’ve got to win the rest of the season, now,” he said.
When asked why running the table in the regular season’s final seven game was a must, Green said, “We’ve just got to win. Nobody likes losing over here. We’ve got to.”
Green, whose 15 points equaled the most he’s scored since Dec. 31, acknowledged that going undefeated in the rest of the regular season would not be easy. But, he added, “we’ve got to tough it out. Take this ‘L’ as a man, and try to get some more wins.”
Kentucky fans might recall Green boldly offered assurances that the Cats would defeat Louisville. It would be a Christmas present for the fans, he said. UK delivered a 90-61 rout of Louisville.
Numbers-cruncher Ken Pomeroy, who did not favor Kentucky against Tennessee, gives the Cats a better than 50/50 chance of winning just three of the final seven games: against Alabama, Missouri and Ole Miss.
First things first, the Cats must get over getting swept by Tennessee. Green said he expected a sleepless night. He and his teammates would soon be ready to carry on.
“We’ve got a day off tomorrow,” he said. “Once tomorrow comes, we’re going to be good.”
If Auburn wins at home against Texas A&M on Wednesday night, the league-leading Tigers will improve to 10-1 in the Southeastern Conference. UK will be four games behind with seven games remaining in regular season.
Message: the traditional gap between mighty Kentucky and the rest of the SEC has shrunk dramatically this season.
“I don’t think it is a big gap,” Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes said. “I mean, you look at it: this is the best basketball league in the country. And I don’t know why people don’t want to own up to that. In one week, you can go from first to last.”
Too many minutes
UK Coach John Calipari cited workload as a factor in Kentucky’s decisive late turnovers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played 39 minutes. Kevin Knox played 37.
“It’s too many minutes,” Calipari said. “Probably hurt us in the end.”
Going into the game, Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander ranked fifth and tied for eighth, respectively, among SEC players in minutes played.
Too few minutes?
In contrast, Hamidou Diallo played a season-low 13 minutes. He was scoreless for the first time.
“He just wasn’t engaged defensively,” Calipari said. “He was breaking down. … Look, these kids aren’t machines and they’re not robots. They make mistakes. They have bad games, and then, OK, come back next week.”
Sophomore forward Tai Wynyard has been suspended from team activities until further notice because of a violation of team rules, Kentucky said.
Calipari confirmed the suspension first reported by SEC Country. “And that’s all I’ll say,” the UK coach said.
Because of a back injury, Wynyard has not played since UK’s game against Georgia on Dec. 31. He did not score and grabbed one rebound in the game against Georgia.
For the season, Wynyard is averaging 0.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 4.2 minutes. He has played in eight of Kentucky’s 23 games.
On Monday, Calipari did not sound optimistic about Wynyard playing again this season.
“He’s tried to come back twice,” Calipari said. “It hasn’t worked. So I think at this point, he’ll be sitting out the rest of the year.”
Kentucky lost a second straight game for the second time this season. UK lost at South Carolina and home to Florida last month. Two more losses came in the last four days: At Missouri and then to Tennessee.
Only once previously in Calipari’s time as coach has UK lost two straight games more than once in a season. His ill-fated NIT-bound team of 2012-13 lost two straight four times:
March 15 and 19 against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament and at Robert Morris in the NIT; March 2 and 7 at Arkansas and at Georgia; Feb. 12 and 16 at Florida and at Tennessee, and Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 at Notre Dame and home to Baylor.
It was Kentucky’s second loss at home. In the 42-year history of Rupp Arena, UK has lost more than two home games only nine times, the most recent being six home losses in 2008-09.
Tennessee won at Kentucky for the first time since 2006, and for only the third time since 1979.
“It’s big,” Admiral Schofield said of winning at Kentucky. “It’s just a testament to the work we put in. Like, I’ve been saying before, we have a very tough team.”
Schofield said the Vols were aware of the streak of losses in Rupp Arena. But the players did not know the overall one-sided history.
“I didn’t know that we haven’t won here more than 10 times,” Schofield said. “You can count that on your fingers.”
Actually, Tennessee reduced UK’s lead in games played in Lexington to 92-17.