Inconsistent play gets associated with freshmen. But experienced players are not immune to basketball’s ups and downs. Even graduate transfers.
Reid Travis showed that in Kentucky’s 77-75 loss at Alabama on Saturday.
One of the heroes in UK’s victory over North Carolina two weeks earlier, Travis struggled in the second half here. He made one of five shots, grabbed two rebounds and committed three turnovers.
Travis, a team leader and steadying presence, also had a dunk blocked and got substituted out of the game at the 18:04 mark of the second half. He returned and played a total of 13 minutes after the break.
“He reverted,” UK Coach John Calipari said. “He tried to gather himself on every catch.”
One memorable moment with Kentucky trailing 74-66 in the final minute, a walking call on Travis cost UK a much-needed breakaway dunk.
“‘Just catch and dunk it,’” Calipari suggested he told Travis. “‘Why did you gather?’
“I told him, ‘all the work we put in, you get into this game and you didn’t trust it.’”
Not that Calipari lost faith in Travis. With UK trailing 70-61 and less than four minutes left, Travis took and missed a three-point shot from the top of the key. Since Dec. 1, he had made one of his seven attempts from beyond the arc.
“If you wonder about Reid’s three,” Calipari told reporters, “he was supposed to shoot. I called that in the timeout ... because I knew they weren’t going to play him, and I knew he could make that shot.”
Calipari dismissed the notion of long-lasting concern about Travis’s play.
“He’ll be fine,” the UK coach said. “He’s the least of our worries. Believe me.”
‘He couldn’t miss’
After UK’s first six opponents made 43.2 percent of their three-point shots, the Cats limited the next six to 28.9-percent accuracy.
Then Alabama made 10 of 23 (43.5 percent). Since Nov. 21, only Seton Hall (11 of 26) had made 10 or more three-pointers against Kentucky.
When asked about Tevin Mack’s 6-for-8 shooting from three-point range, Calipari said, “Well, we did the same thing we did up at Seton Hall. We went under a hand-off, which we had talked about. ... We went under a pick-and-roll, and he made it.
“From that time, he had beer muscles.”
Said PJ Washington: “I mean, he couldn’t miss. He was hitting everything.”
Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said he anticipated one of UK’s “bigs” — either Washington or Travis — having to defend Mack, who at 6-foot-6 had a speed advantage.
“They got stuck in the paint quite a few times,” Johnson said of UK’s big men, “and (Mack) was (open) behind the three-point line.”
Said Donta Hall of Mack: “He wakes up shooting. Goes to sleep, he’s shooting. It’s just what he does.”
UK adjusted. Mack, a transfer from Texas, made only one of three field-goal attempts in the second half.
“They definitely tried to face guard me a little bit in the second half ...,” Mack said. “I wasn’t going to get as many open looks.”
Immanuel Quickley’s eight points matched his second-highest scoring total since Nov. 23.
“With Quade (Green) gone, we’re going to need somebody to add on some points ...,” Ashton Hagans said. “As the season keeps going, that’s something he’s got to keep doing.”
Calipari suggested that UK failed to execute a plan to press Alabama, which had 17 turnovers.
“We never got into the press,” he said. “We had guys jogging back. I’m, like, wait a minute. We couldn’t press until the end of the game.”
Johnson began his post-game news conference with a salute to Alabama fans. Although students are not on campus because of the semester break and much attention is being paid to Alabama’s national championship game against Clemson on Monday, this game had an announced attendance of 12,424. Coleman Coliseum had a listed capacity of 15,383.
Said the Tide’s coach: “I just want to say to all our Alabama basketball supporters and fans that showed up and made a bunch of noise today, we can’t thank you enough.”