Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Dissecting Kentucky basketball’s loss in La-La Land

UCLA center Thomas Welsh, center, celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. UCLA won 87-77.
UCLA center Thomas Welsh, center, celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. UCLA won 87-77. The Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Saturday:

Kentucky must learn from loss and move on, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “UCLA (5-3) milked the clock in an effort to avoid getting sped up, thus creating the turnovers and ill-advised shots that fuel Kentucky’s transition game. The Cats had only four fast-break points. UCLA had none and didn’t seem keen on getting many.”

Thon Maker is back in Kentucky, but UK no longer involved, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “Ed Smith, the player’s guardian, told the Herald-Leader after Friday’s game that Arizona State, Indiana and Kansas are the three schools recruiting Maker the hardest. Smith also said he couldn’t remember the last time they heard from anyone on UK’s coaching staff.”

These are not the same Cats, which may not be bad, says Aaron Torres of Fox Sports. “Now granted, there is no shame in losing one regular-season game, even if you are the No. 1 team in the country and even if you are Coach Cal’s mighty Kentucky. And there’s especially no shame when it’s your first true road game of the season, when you’re starting three freshmen, and when one of your best players (junior Marcus Lee) leaves early with an injury, and another (sophomore Tyler Ulis) is still recovering from one of his own.”

It's too early to discount Skal Labissiere, writes Gary Parrish of CBS Sports. “As for Labissiere, undeniably, he’s struggled the past two games. He only had six points and one rebound in Thursday’s loss at UCLA. He got two points and two rebounds earlier this week against Illinois State. But the 6-foot-11 forward has also scored at least 13 points in half of UK’s contests, and he had a 26-point performance in last month’s win over NJIT.”

One of UCLA's worst nights became one of its best, writes Eamonn Brennan of “The pregame talk about UCLA trying to avoid another embarrassment couldn’t have been more wrong. The Bruins took a 4-2 advantage with 18 minutes, 20 seconds left to play; they never surrendered the lead again. They scored 1.3 points per possession against a defense that had allowed .886 in its seven previous games, turned the ball over just 10 times against UK’s consistent full-court pressure, and shot 53 percent from the field on a steady diet of open looks, interior finishes and tidy drives.”

Thomas Welsh’s emergence helped UCLA, writes Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times. “On the other side of Pauley Pavilion, away from a joyous UCLA locker room, Kentucky tried to dissect the upset that had just occurred. One player haunted the Wildcats’ John Calipari the most, although the coach concluded his top-ranked team had been outshone in all facets.”

Lack of physicality doomed Cats, writes Metz Camfield for “Without Marcus Lee – you take him out. He’s one of the leading rebounders in the country, offensively,” Coach Cal said. “Would have got a couple easy baskets, maybe a couple blocks. Maybe it would have been different. But let me say this: They beat our brains in.”

Kentucky failed its toughness test, writes Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. The host Bruins often bullied the young, top-ranked Cats on the way to that Thursday night win at Pauley Pavilion.

Mark Richt is happy to be home again at Miami, reports Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald. “Mark Richt wore an orange-and-green tie Friday instead of the customary red and black he donned the past 15 years in Athens, Georgia. He wore an orange-and-green ‘U’ pin on his left lapel instead of the black Georgia ‘G.’ And instead of saying he was leaving home, he said he was coming home.”

A busy day, but South Carolina still without a coach, reports Josh Kendall of The State. “Former Florida coach Will Muschamp, who has interviewed, got most of the buzz Friday, but other names continued to emerge as athletics director Ray Tanner searches for a successor to Steve Spurrier. Muschamp, 44, has made a strong push for the job and has even reached out to former South Carolina star running back Marcus Lattimore about a position on his staff – should he get the Gamecocks job, a source told The State on Friday.”

Kentucky knocked out of NCAA Volleyball Tournament, reports H-L. “Freshman Aleksandra Kazala recorded 14 kills to lead the American University volleyball team to a 26-24, 25-17, 25-21 sweep over 22nd-ranked Kentucky Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.”

Kentucky men’s basketball next five games

  • Dec. 9 Eastern Kentucky (7:00/ESPN2)
  • Dec. 12 Arizona State (3:15/ESPN)
  • Dec. 19 Ohio State in Brooklyn (3:30/CBS)
  • Dec. 26 Louisville (12:00/CBS)
  • Jan. 2 Ole Miss (7:00/SEC)
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