Sidelines with John Clay

Three take-aways as Kentucky basketball nearly lets one get away

Three take-aways from Kentucky’s 88-81 win over Mississippi State:

1. John Calipari: “Maybe we’re two months away”

In the past week or so, the UK coach has said his team is “a month away” from where it should be if it wants to be “one of those teams” come March Madness. After all the fouls and frustration, seeing an 18-point lead be cut to three points with seven minutes to play, Calipari said his team might be “two months” away.

What particularly peeved Calipari was Malik Monk picking up a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a dunk that put the Cats up 64-46 with 12:18 left. It was similar to the same technical that Karl-Anthony Towns earned at LSU that helped the Tigers get back in the game two years ago at LSU.

Monk had an off night all the way around. He missed nine of his 14 shots, missed all three of his three-point attempts and committed five turnovers.

It wasn’t just Monk, however, Calipari said. Players left timeouts and didn’t follow instructions. There were too many fouls, especially on the offensive end. UK was called for 24 fouls and Mississippi State 28 by the whistle-happy crew.

He was asked whether he was worried that maybe he couldn’t get this team where it needs to be when it needs to be there.

“Well, then you’re basically saying their will is stronger than my will,” Calipari said. “You know me pretty well.”

2. Mississippi State shot 54.2 percent and lost

The host Bulldogs made 32 of 59 shots from the floor for 54.2 percent on Tuesday, including 18 of 32 for 56.3 percent in the second half, and didn’t get the win.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” said MSU coach Ben Howland, who blamed missed free throws – State was 12 of 22 from the line – and 19 turnovers for the loss.

Indeed, that was the highest shooting percentage by a UK opponent since Wichita State shot 55.1 percent against the Cats in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Wichita State lost also.

Lamar Peters had a standout game for the Bulldogs. The 6-foot guard from New Orleans scored a career-high 25 points, making nine of 16 shots from the floor. UK’s DeAaron Fox, who was born in New Orleans, went to Peters after the game to offer congratulations.

But back to that shooting percentage. Howland’s team came into the game shooting 45.4 percent from the floor as a team. In four SEC games, the Bulldogs shot 50 percent just once: 54.1 percent in MSU’s 95-78 win at LSU.

Kentucky averaged 1.108 points per possession, and Mississippi State averaged 1.020 points per possession.

3. De’Aaron Fox flashes to the rescue

With Monk struggling and other Kentucky players battling foul trouble, it was Fox who took the game over down the stretch.

After State had cut the lead to 76-71, Fox scored on a lightning-quick drive to make it 78-71 with 3:41 left. He made one of two free throws with 2:43 left. He dunked off a drive with 1:34 remaining to push the visitors back to an 81-75 lead. He then produced an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 84-76 with 56 seconds left. With 47 seconds left, he made one of two foul shots for an 85-78 Kentucky lead.

Calipari correctly pointed out that as a point guard, Fox has to be better at the foul line. He ended up just five of nine for the night. Still, it’s hard to fault his performance overall.

The freshman finished with 21 points, making eight of 15 shots. He also had five rebounds and five assists.

“Right now, with this team, we don’t have a go-to person,” Fox said. “We don’t have that right now, so whoever has the hot hand that game is the one who does it. One game Malik did it; the (North) Carolina game Malik did it. The Vanderbilt game, Isaiah kind of did it. This game it was my turn.”

Opponents best shooting percentage in Calipari Era at UK

Opponent

Date

Site

FG

FGA

Pct

Dec

Florida

3/8/14

Gainesville

28

47

0.596

W

Tennessee

2/16/13

Knoxville

29

50

0.580

W

Connecticut

11/24/10

New York

30

52

0.577

W

Wichita St.

3/23/14

St. Louis (NCAA)

27

49

0.551

L

Miss. St.

1/17/17

Starkville

32

59

0.542

L

UCLA

12/3/16

Lexington

35

66

0.530

W

North Carolina

12/17/16

Las Vegas

35

66

0.530

L

Missouri

2/1/14

Columbia

27

51

0.529

L

Miss. St.

1/12/16

Lexington

27

51

0.529

L

UCLA

12/31/15

Los Angeles

28

53

0.528

W

Texas A&M

1/12/13

Lexington

31

59

0.525

W

Indiana

3/23/12

Atlanta (NCAA)

36

69

0.522

L

LSU

1/28/14

Baton Rouge

32

63

0.508

W

Vanderbilt

3/15/13

Nashville (SEC)

23

46

0.500

W

Vanderbilt

1/11/14

Nashville

25

50

0.500

L

Kentucky men’s basketball 2016-17

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Rec

SEC

11/11/16

Stephen F. Austin

87

64

W

1-0

 

11/13/16

Canisus

93

69

W

2-0

 

11/15/16

vs. Michigan State

68

49

W

3-0

 

11/20/16

Duquense

93

59

W

4-0

 

11/23/16

Cleveland State

101

70

W

5-0

 

11/25/16

UT-Martin

111

76

W

6-0

 

11/28/16

vs. Arizona St

115

69

W

7-0

 

12/3/16

UCLA

92

97

L

7-1

 

12/7/16

Valparaiso

87

63

W

8-1

 

12/11/16

Hofstra

96

73

W

9-1

 

12/17/16

vs. North Carolina

103

100

W

10-1

 

12/21/16

@Louisville

70

73

L

10-2

 

12/29/16

@Ole Miss

99

76

W

11-2

1-0

1/3/17

Texas A&M

100

58

W

12-2

2-0

1/7/17

Arkansas

97

71

W

13-2

3-0

1/10/17

@Vanderbilt

87

81

W

14-2

4-0

1/14/17

Auburn

92

72

W

15-2

5-0

1/17/17

@Miss. St.

88

81

W

16-2

6-0

1/21/17

S Carolina

     

1/24/17

@Tennessee

     

1/28/17

Kansas

     

1/31/17

Georgia

     

2/4/17

@Florida

     

2/7/17

LSU

     

2/11/17

@Alabama

     

2/14/17

Tennessee

     

2/18/17

@Georgia

     

2/21/17

@Missouri

     

2/25/17

Florida

     

2/28/17

Vanderbilt

     

3/4/17

@Texas A&M

     
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