Sidelines with John Clay

Three more things from Kentucky basketball’s stunning loss at Tennessee

Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) got off an off-balance shot as the University of Kentucky played the University of Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tn., Tuesday, February 02, 2016. This is second half men's college basketball action. Tennessee won 84-77.
Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) got off an off-balance shot as the University of Kentucky played the University of Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tn., Tuesday, February 02, 2016. This is second half men's college basketball action. Tennessee won 84-77. Lexington Herald-Leader

In addition to my column, here’s three more short takes from UK’s stunning 84-77 loss at Tennessee:

1. Not protecting the defensive boards

Tennessee is a small team. It doesn’t have a player who has played substantial minutes and is over 6-foot-7. Tennessee is also not a good rebounding team. The Vols entered Tuesday night having been outrebounded for the season. It’s pre-game rebound margin was negative-two.

And yet, Tennessee outrebounded Kentucky 37-36 at Thompson-Boling Arena. That’s surprising enough. Here’s the real shocker: Tennessee claimed 41.2 percent of its offensive rebounds. The Vols grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. UK had 20 defensive rebounds. That means Tennessee was able to keep many more possessions alive than you would have expected coming into the game.

Protecting the defensive glass is usually not a problem for a John Calipari team, but it has been for this one. Louisville’s offensive rebound percentage was 52.5 against the Cats. LSU’s was 43.2. Kansas posted a 35.9 last Saturday. Now comes Tennessee’s 41.2 percent.

“You have to fight,” said Calipari after the game and you wonder if rebounding was much of what he was talking about.

2. What goes up must come down

Calipari admitted that he was a little worried about this game after UK’s 90-84 overtime loss at Kansas last Saturday. That game was played a crazy and deafening Allen Fieldhouse. The atmosphere there was tremendous. The game was terrific. Even in defeat, Kentucky impressed observers with the way it took the Jayhawks into overtime.

At least at the start Tuesday night, Thompson-Boling was all but dead. It was a late arriving crowd. And those in their seats were not making much noise as Kentucky rolled to a 34-13 lead with five minutes left in the first half.

“I thought, ‘We’re ok,’” said Calipari.

They were not. Where Tennessee really won the game was during its charge the final five minutes of that first half. The Vols not only chopped a 21-point lead to six, you could see they had gained the belief that they could not only play with Kentucky, they could beat Kentucky.

The Cats didn’t nothing in the second half to turn that around.

3. Tyler Ulis plays big, but he can’t do it alone

The 5-foot-9 point guard scored 20 points, made 12 of 14 free throws, dished five assists, made two steals and turned it over only once in 38 minutes. But he can’t do it alone.

Alex Poythress got off to a good start, scoring 10 points in the first 10 minutes, then did another disappearing act. He fouled out with 14 points. Jamal Murray made seven shots, but he also took 20. He was three-of-12 from three and too often he appeared to be trying to make something out of nothing. Isaiah Briscoe scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds but he was hurt by foul trouble.

You can tell Ulis is frustrated. You have been able to tell that pretty much all season. The sophomore wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s carrying a heavy load on this team. He needs some consistent help.

Kentucky men’s basketball 2015-16

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Rec

SEC

11/13/15

Albany

78

65

W

1-0

11/14/15

NJIT

87

57

W

2-0

11/17/15

vsDuke (chicago)

74

63

W

3-0

11/20/15

Wright State

78

63

W

4-0

11/24/15

Boston

82

62

W

5-0

11/27/15

@South Florida (miami)

84

63

W

6-0

11/30/15

Illinois State

75

63

W

7-0

12/3/15

@UCLA

77

87

L

7-1

12/9/15

Eastern Kentucky

88

67

W

8-1

12/12/15

Arizona State

72

58

W

9-1

12/19/15

vsOhio St (brooklyn)

67

74

L

9-2

12/26/15

Louisville

75

73

W

10-2

1/2/16

Ole Miss

83

61

W

11-2

1-0

1/5/16

@LSU

67

85

L

11-3

1-1

1/9/16

@Alabama

77

61

W

12-3

2-1

1/12/16

Miss State

80

74

W

13-3

3-1

1/16/16

@Auburn

70

75

L

13-4

3-2

1/21/16

@Arkansas

80

66

W

14-4

4-2

1/23/16

Vanderbilt

76

57

W

15-4

5-2

1/27/16

Missouri

88

54

W

16-4

6-2

1/30/16

@Kansas

84

90

L*

16-5

2/2/16

@Tennessee

77

84

L

16-6

6-3

2/6/16

Florida

2/9/16

Georgia

2/13/16

@South Carolina

2/18/16

Tennessee

2/20/16

@Texas A&M

2/23/16

Alabama

2/27/16

@Vanderbilt

3/1/16

@Florida

3/5/16

LSU

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