Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Kentucky basketball’s sharp drop off Rocky Top

Kentucky Wildcats forward Derek Willis (35), Kentucky Wildcats guard Jamal Murray (23) and Kentucky Wildcats guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) watched as /t3 dunked 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 Derek Willis (35), Kentucky Wildcats guard Jamal Murray (23) and Kentucky Wildcats guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) watched as /t3 dunked 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

Big Blue Links for Wednesday:

Up 21, Kentucky goes bust at Tennessee, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “We had them down 21 and they came back and beat our brains in,” UK coach John Calipari said. “You think about it. They ended up beating us by 30 (actually 28) in about 25 minutes. And it could have been 50. We have a long way to go.”

UK gets swept away by an unexpected storm, says my column. “For the 19,295 in attendance, it was like buying one ticket to see two completely different games. The first 15 minutes, it was all blue skies and sunshine as Kentucky, the nation’s 20th-ranked team, rolled to a 21-point lead over the host and rebuilding Vols. Then all of a sudden, here came the lightning strikes, one after another after another after another, until by game’s end UK had its sixth loss of the season — and by far its worst loss of the season.”

UK’s five losses to unranked foes not unprecedented, reports Tipton. “It’s happened to two of John Calipari’s teams since he became UK coach. The Cats in 2012-13 lost nine games to unranked opponents. The Cats of 2010-11 lost to seven unranked opponents.”

Tennessee stays the course to beat Kentucky, reports Grant Ramey of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Tennessee went to work in the second half, outscoring Kentucky 48-35 and capping its comeback when Mostella hit a 3-point shot with 14:09 to play, putting the Vols up 56-54. Kentucky hit back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 60-56 lead, before a 12-3 Tennessee run put the Vols back in control with seven minutes left.”

Tennessee changes the script and wins the second half, writes Mike Strange of the News-Sentinel. “Leading at halftime is overrated. Tennessee has done so regularly, only to fade, fold or disintegrate after coming back from the break. It happened twice last week, at Alabama and then TCU. The fact that the Vols trailed Kentucky only 42-36 at the break was a victory in itself. But nothing to celebrate.”

Tennessee turns the tables, writes Parick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “This by far is one of the best wins (of my career), just because of the simple fact that we’ve been through a whole lot this year as a team,” UT’s Armani Moore said. “I feel like we’ve just had our backs against the wall. I’m very proud of us and this team, because we’re not going to give up.”

If the University of Tennessee marketing department is smart, next year’s basketball media guide will feature at least one page, perhaps its back cover, perfectly split in half by two pictures.

Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press

Tennessee wins one for the ages, writes Mark Wiedmer of the Times Free Press. “If the University of Tennessee marketing department is smart, next year’s basketball media guide will feature at least one page, perhaps its back cover, perfectly split in half by two pictures. The left side will show a picture of the Thompson-Boling Arena scoreboard with 5:46 to go in Tuesday’s first half against No. 20 Kentucky, the Wildcats up 34-13 at that moment. Then there’s the picture that should make up the right half of the page, the one showing Tennessee’s players and fans jumping up and down with justifiable joy, the scoreboard beaming the final score: Tennessee 84, Kentucky 77.”

Kentucky will do some soul-searching, reports Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause. “I’m just trying to demand that they do it the right way and I’m asking them why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you do what we’re teaching? Why are you trying to break off? And then when they do the same thing three times, then I get a little more aggressive,” Calipari said. “’Obviously you’re not hearing me so I’m gonna say this louder and a little bit closer to your face, so you hear what I’m saying.’”

Kentucky’s collapse more revelation than aberration, writes C.L. Brown of espn.com. “Many factors have landed Kentucky in this position, but the biggest is the class of 2015 as a whole has not been as good as projected. Only Jamal Murray has been as good as advertised. Isaiah Briscoe isn’t the shooting guard many thought he’d be and center Skal Labissiere hasn’t plugged in as a dominating presence on the post like Karl-Anthony Towns and others before him. That’s OK, considering they’re just freshmen. But at Kentucky, they can’t afford to be average freshmen and still expect the Wildcats to be among the elite.”

Kentucky gives away a huge lead in Knoxville, reports Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal. The Cats were up 34-13 in the first half before losing in Thompson-Boling Arena to a Tennessee team now 11-11 on the season.

Kentucky gets a super effort from Tennessee, writes Larry Vaught of Vaught’s Views. “We felt like if we weren’t going to bring energy in this type of environment, that we were never going to bring it. We knew what we had to do, to keep our foot on the gas and keep pushing,” Tennessee’s Detrick Mostella said. “It was rough, but we knew if we kept fighting that we would come back.”

Kentucky’s fouling issues linger in loss at Tennessee, reports Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports. “The downfall for John Calipari’s group came with many of the same issues that have plagued it this season. The defense really struggled to deal with Tennessee’s five-out, spacing-oriented offense. The big men also struggled to establish any sort of presence in the second half against one of the smallest teams in the country. However, there is one critical issue that continues to cause the Wildcats grief that will need to be ironed out if they want to make a run in March.”

Where does Kentucky go from here? asks Eric Crawford of WDRB. “Where does Kentucky go from here? What does this loss mean? You’re not going to lure me into that. If you’ve watched college basketball this season, you know that there are a lot of head-scratching losses out there. You go home, watch your film, go back to practice and move on. We’ve seen it before, even with Kentucky teams. You can’t write the final chapter in February.”

Kentucky basketball individual game-by-game stats in a spreadsheet

Cats suffer a rocky loss on Rocky Top, writes Metz Camfield of coachcal.com. “Kentucky, similar to Saturday’s overtime loss at Kansas, battled foul trouble throughout the majority of the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Poythress fouled out in just 17 minutes of game action. Ulis, who reached the 20-point plateau for the fifth straight game, fouled out for the first time this season, marking just the second time all year he had been whistled for more than three fouls in a game. And Briscoe played nearly 10 minutes in the second half with four fouls to his name.”

Unlike last year, Kentucky’s top football commitments have stuck together, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “I would say surprised is a good word,” Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell told the Herald-Leader. “Obviously, the vision that we’ve talked about over the years — they can no longer sell that vision. Now, you have to sell results. And things didn’t go that great this season. And they didn’t go that great down the stretch last season. And I think the difference this year is what the staff learned from last year. Staying on top of kids, keeping them focused on where they’re headed.”

Kentucky hires Louisville’s wide receivers coach, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “A day before national signing day, Kentucky got another kind of signature, this time from a new assistant coach. UK Coach Mark Stoops made the hiring of new wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas official. The former NFL wide receiver, who won multiple championships while playing for Miami, is the final piece of the assistant coaching puzzle for UK this season.”

SEC men’s basketball standings

Team

W

L

W

L

Texas A&M

7

1

18

3

LSU

7

2

14

8

South Carolina

6

3

19

3

Kentucky

6

3

16

6

Florida

5

3

14

7

Georgia

5

4

12

8

Vanderbilt

4

4

12

9

Arkansas

4

4

11

9

Tennessee

4

5

11

11

Ole Miss

3

5

13

8

Auburn

3

6

9

12

Alabama

3

6

12

9

Miss State

2

7

9

12

Missouri

1

7

8

13

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