John Clay

Too full of itself, Kentucky was the team that got spanked at Florida

Just when this young Kentucky basketball team was riding high, winners of four straight games and galloping along with the wind at their backs, just like that its horse came to a sudden stop Saturday at the O’Connell Center.

And splat went the Cats, falling flat in an 80-67 loss to the Florida Gators in the regular-season finale before next week’s SEC Tournament in St. Louis.

“We reverted,” UK Coach John Calipari said.

Either that or his young players got a little too full of themselves, as evidenced by Quade Green’s Wednesday postgame pop-off when after the win over Ole Miss, the freshman guard said, “Now we gotta go to Florida and spank them.”

Were the Gators aware of the comment?

“Yeah, we knew that,” said a grinning Florida guard Jalen Hudson, who scored a game-high 22 points and correctly identified Green as the man behind the quote.

Was it used for motivation?

“A little bit, a little bit, a little bit,” he said. “We put it in our group chat. So we all knew coming into the game how they were feeling. We wanted to put some extra effort into the game.”

That’s the thing about college basketball. You can be spanking teams one month then find yourself on the other end of the paddle the next. Saturday, Kentucky got spanked.

“We’re playing our best basketball of the year right now,” said Florida Coach Mike White, his Gators (20-11 overall, 11-7 in the SEC) clinching the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament with its third straight win.

The Gators led by 15 at halftime. They were up 23 in the second half. They managed to go 9:44 without a field goal in the middle of the final 20 minutes and still won by double digits.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky that shared the ball, moved on offense and crashed the glass during its recent surge was nowhere to be found in the Sunshine State. The Cats committed 13 turnovers to a season-low six assists.

“I don’t have any idea why we didn’t pass the ball,” Calipari said.

Hamidou Diallo missed all seven of his shots, including a trio of three-point attempts. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 17 points and had four assists, but the freshman also committed five turnovers. He often found himself in high traffic areas where he tried to do too much.

“Shai did not play well,” Calipari said.

Florida did play well. On the one hand, this was its Senior Day, which included an emotional good-bye to guard Chris Chiozza, now the school’s all-time assists leader. To mark the occasion, the Gators sported the orange uniforms they wore during their run in the November PK80 Tournament when they reached the finals before losing to Duke.

On the other hand, this was a Florida team that had lost league games at home to South Carolina (77-72), Alabama (68-50) and Georgia in overtime (72-69). The Gators have hardly been invincible at home.

Plus, it was less than two weeks ago that Kentucky traveled to Arkansas and ripped the Razorbacks 87-72 at Bud Walton. So it was not as if the Cats had not proven they could win on the road.

And while Calipari did a lot of talk about “conquering” on Friday, his team has not been able to conquer any of the league’s top three seeds. The Cats (21-10, 10-8) lost at Auburn and were swept by both Tennessee and Florida.

“You think you’re better than you are,” Calipari said. “And then the way you play is you’re in a dogfight and you’re going to play harder than the other guys. We didn’t do it against Mississippi. We didn’t do it today.”

The coach also said this: “We’re still learning.”

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. March is here. Having been thrown, the Cats have to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and get right back on that horse in time for the “real stuff,” as Calipari called it Saturday, the tournament stuff.

“Let’s see if we can get it right,” said the coach. “But if you play this way, you’re not winning. You won’t win.”

Kentucky men’s basketball 2017-18

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Rec

SEC

11/10/17

Utah Valley

73

63

W

1-0

 

11/12/17

Vermont

73

69

W

2-0

 

11/14/17

vs Kansas (Chicago)

61

65

L

2-1

 

11/17/17

East Tennessee

78

61

W

3-1

 

11/20/17

Troy

70

62

W

4-1

 

11/22/17

Fort Wayne

86

67

W

5-1

 

11/26/17

UIC

107

73

W

6-1

 

12/2/17

Harvard

79

70

W

7-1

 

12/9/17

vs Monmouth (New York)

93

76

W

8-1

 

12/16/17

Virginia Tech

93

86

W

9-1

 

12/23/17

vs UCLA (New Orleans)

75

83

L

9-2

 

12/29/17

Louisville

90

61

W

10-2

 

12/31/17

Georgia

66

61

W

11-2

1-0

1/3/18

@LSU

74

71

W

12-2

2-0

1/6/18

@Tennessee

65

76

L

12-3

2-1

1/9/18

Texas A&M

74

73

W

13-3

3-1

1/13/18

@Vanderbilt

74

67

W

14-3

4-1

1/16/18

@South Carolina

68

76

L

14-4

4-2

1/20/18

Florida

64

66

L

14-5

4-3

1/23/18

Mississippi St

78

65

W

15-5

5-3

1/27/18

@West Virginia

83

76

W

16-5

 

1/30/18

Vanderbilt

83

81

W*

17-5

6-3

2/3/18

@Missouri

60

69

L

17-6

6-4

2/6/18

Tennessee

59

61

L

17-7

6-5

2/10/18

@Texas A&M

74

85

L

17-8

6-6

2/14/18

@Auburn

66

76

L

17-9

6-7

2/17/18

Alabama

81

71

W

18-9

7-7

2/20/18

@Arkansas

87

72

W

19-9

8-7

2/24/18

Missouri

87

66

W

20-9

9-7

2/28/18

Ole Miss

96

78

W

21-9

10-7

3/3/18

@Florida

67

80

L

21-10

10-8

John Calipari’s coaching record at UK

Season

School

Overall

SEC

NCAA

2009-10

Kentucky

35-3

14-2

Elite Eight

2010-11

Kentucky

29-9

10-6

Final Four

2011-12

Kentucky

38-2

16-0

Champions

2012-13

Kentucky

21-12

12-6

 

2013-14

Kentucky

29-11

12-6

Runner-up

2014-15

Kentucky

38-1

18-0

Final Four

2015-16

Kentucky

27-9

13-5

Second round

2016-17

Kentucky

32-6

16-2

Elite Eight

2017-18

Kentucky

21-10

10-8

 
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