The first question Matthew Mitchell faced at his Friday news conference cut right to the chase.
What's happened to you guys?
"Well, you know, it will be hard to tell you exactly," the Kentucky women's basketball coach said ruefully. "We're just going through a tough, tough time right now."
For many years, Kentucky losing three straight women's hoops games was about as news worthy as a sunrise.
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That was then. This is now.
Road losses at LSU and Tennessee stung a Cats squad that had risen to No. 6 in the national rankings and seemed to have an outright SEC regular-season championship in sight. But they were somewhat understandable.
Thursday's defeat at the hands of Alabama — a team that had previously won one SEC game all season — set off the emergency-warning sirens.
Kentucky somehow fell behind the SEC doormat 50-28 at halftime. That hole was too much to dig out of even though UK shot 60 percent after halftime and won the second half by 20 points.
"If we could just have found a way to hang in there in the first half, you saw what happened in the second half," Mitchell said.
So what has gone wrong to what had been a joyride of a UK season? Let's test three theories.
Issue One. Have opponents made adjustments against and figured out Kentucky's pressing, trapping defensive system, especially the second time they face the Cats?
In the three-game skid, UK's three opponents have all shot over 50 percent.
Tennessee and Alabama were rematches from earlier Kentucky victories. In the UK wins, UT made only 38.3 percent of its shots; Alabama hit 37.5. In the Kentucky defeats, Tennessee hit 59 percent of its shots; Alabama made 53 percent.
"I think teams have made good adjustments," Mitchell said. "I think we are in a spot where we need to counter those adjustments. That's a lot on my shoulders and that's a lot on our staff, making sure we have a good plan."
Issue Two. Have teams figured out that if they can make Kentucky play a half-court game offensively, then the Cats are vulnerable?
LSU and Tennessee both utilized long, athletic rosters to settle back in 2-3 zones. Kentucky hit 21-of-60 shots in Baton Rouge; 21-of-63 in Knoxville.
Then against Alabama, UK missed 24 of its 36 shots in the first half and the carry-over effect of the offensive struggles from the two prior games may have gotten inside the Cats' heads and shaken their confidence.
"It's a combination of the players allowing their confidence to drop as shots have not," Mitchell said. "It's been a challenge for us as coaches to try to get them to continue to weather the storm and play hard and not let offense affect defense. (At Alabama), we absolutely let that happen in the first half."
Issue Three. Is Kentucky, with its reliance on a full-court press, showing late-season signs of fatigue?
Emphatically not true, Mitchell says. UK has no player averaging more than the 28.7 minutes a game A'dia Mathies clocks.
"We don't have anybody playing huge minutes," Mitchell said. "We just came off a bye week (in between the LSU and Tennessee defeats). I don't think for one second we are done physically or we are worn out or we are tired."
A couple of "big picture" points seem appropriate here.
Coming into this season, we all thought (OK, I thought) that Kentucky was a year away from its take-the-next-step season. Next year, when highly regarded California transfer DeNesha Stallworth becomes eligible, is when we all thought (OK, I thought) that UK would emerge as a viable Final Four threat.
Until these last three games, Mitchell and crew had seemed to be a year ahead of schedule in 2011-12.
Meanwhile, even with the losing streak, Kentucky is still tied with Tennessee for the SEC lead. If the Cats can get the train back on the tracks and win their final three games, at least sharing a conference championship remains possible.
For that to happen, Kentucky has to start by winning Monday night's late-night (9 p.m.) tip with Vanderbilt.
Says Mitchell: "A win would do us a world of good as far as building confidence."
It would end the What's happened to you guys? questions, too.