Kentucky’s 90-84 loss in overtime at Kansas on Saturday revived a familiar theme this season. The Wildcats need to do better down the stretch of a close game.
“We just need to learn to finish,” Alex Poythress said.
Failing to get two rebounds late in regulation haunted the Cats.
The first came with about four minutes left and the score tied at 66-66.
Kansas missed a shot, and Tyler Ulis appeared to have the rebound. But Kansas separated him from the ball and got a three-pointer with the extra possession.
Ulis “got knocked over,” UK Coach John Calipari, a broad hint at a foul uncalled. “But he (Frank Mason III) had to make it. They made those plays.”
More than once, Calipari said that he should get the blame for UK’s inability to win the game. That blame removed any satisfaction from coming oh-so-close to winning at Kansas.
“We’re still doing some things,” Calipari said. “It’s losing basketball. It’s Auburn all over again.”
UK’s come-from-ahead loss at Auburn involved 15 minutes of losing basketball, Calipari said. “Here, it was five or six minutes.”
Willis streak ends
Normally, missing a free throw is not news. But junior forward Derek Willis missing one qualifies as deserving of attention.
Willis missed a free throw with 10:01 left in the second half. He had not missed a free throw since the second game of his freshman season.
Since missing three of six free throws against Northern Kentucky on Nov. 10, 2013, Willis had made 26 straight.
Fans stay put
Calipari noticed that Kansas fans did not rush the court at the end of the game.
“Have Kansas fans ever rushed the court?” Calipari asked the Kansas media corps. Told that the fans did rush the court once when Roy Williams was coach, Calipari quipped, “That’s on Roy.
“Like at Kentucky, if we beat the Lakers at the buzzer on a half-court shot that banks in,” the fans would not rush the court.
On Friday, Tyler Ulis explained how he and Isaiah Briscoe started what UK Coach John Calipari refers to as the “Breakfast club.” It’s a voluntary gathering of players for a morning workout.
“We just started that last week after the Vandy game,” Ulis said. “Just started getting up and lifting weights a little bit, stretching and just trying to get better.”
Ulis downplayed the idea of the “Breakfast club” helping the players bond.
“It’s so early that it really doesn’t help us bond since everybody is tired,” he said. “It just helps us getting up when your body doesn’t want to get up, and just trying to get better every day.
“We just came together and felt like we wanted to lift one day, and just kept on doing it. … Now, it’s almost an everyday thing.”
The idea for the “Breakfast Club” is to maximize the participants’ potential.
“We feel like we can be great,” Ulis said. “So whatever we can do to get better, we’re going to try to do.”
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gets credit for starting a “Breakfast Club” during UK’s national championship season of 2011-12. This season’s UK players are well aware.
“Everybody knows about it,” Ulis said. “He’s a hard worker, so why not follow in his footsteps?”
The SEC was seeking to have more victories than defeats for the first time in the made-for-TV challenge against the Big 12 Conference. The SEC failed.
UK’s loss to Kansas was part of a 3-7 performance by the SEC. The league got victories from Florida (over West Virginia), Texas A&M (over Iowa State) and Arkansas (over Texas Tech).
In the inaugural challenge in 2014, the Big 12 won six of 10 games. The Big 12 won seven of 10 games last year.
The SEC, which aspires to a greater basketball profile, had a 6-10 record against ranked teams in the non-conference portion of the schedule going into this weekend.
When Roy Williams was Kansas coach, he would jog regularly to two cemeteries in Lawrence.
Williams would touch James Naismith’s gravestone at Memorial Park Cemetery and “Phog” Allen’s gravestone in nearby Oak Hill Cemetery.
Besides seeking to improve his fitness, Williams touched the gravestones for good luck.
Calipari and Self were both graduate assistants at Kansas early in their careers. Calipari worked for Ted Owens and Larry Brown from 1982 to 1985. Self worked for Brown in 1985-86. . . . Kansas’ 150-95 victory over Kentucky in 1989 is not the most-lopsided victory for the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse. It’s tied for 13th. Kansas has won eight games by 55 or more points in the building.