QUICK TAKES: Kentucky vs. Alabama
In our regular postgame feature, the Cats Illustrated staff offers its first impressions from Kentucky's 85-65 loss to Alabama on Tuesday at Rupp Arena...
This was a sobering reminder that Kentucky has a long way to go as a team, and after watching the total mismatch on the court tonight it's hard to believe this team is a whole lot better than it was a couple of weeks ago. Alabama deserves a lot of credit for that. They looked better coached and they obviously made a lot of shots. Just as the Florida game was really the result of everyone playing well, not too many Wildcats performed at a high level this evening. I hate to draw conclusions after a game or two but fans are probably justified in feeling differently than they did before this game. They just had no answers on defense and no plan on offense.
Even after the Florida win, I said that this team has warts. The poor roster structure will lead to many feast-or-famine results as this season goes on. There’s no point guard despite Askew’s growth, no ball-stopper defenders, no shooters, and inconsistent paint defense. There’s a very low collective basketball IQ on this team, which is made up of more athletes than skill players. You’re not going to beat very many good teams with lineups consisting of Brooks or Toppin at the small forward spot beside Jackson and Sarr on the block. This team has physical gifts but lacks in their understanding of how to play the game. It’s a broken record, but this team was just poorly constructed and the offensive system needs a complete overhaul.
Well, this was a rude wake-up call. Nothing really went right for the Cats tonight, but it may have been the worst defensive showing of the Calipari era. Other games may have seen the opponent shoot a better percentage, but that's a product of the sheer number of 3-pointers that the Crimson Tide launched. They made 14 of those, and even more concerning from a UK standpoint, was the number of uncontested drives to the rack that Alabama converted. It was an embarrassing showing, especially considering the Tide were playing without three of their best players for most of the game. This was a golden opportunity for the Cats to chalk up a nice resume win. They failed the test spectacularly. It's back to the drawing board for Calipari & Co.
This was the worst-case scenario tonight for Kentucky. Riding a three-game winning streak the most impressive win was against Florida. Could they prove that was not an outlier tonight? No, they could not. The difference in skill was a huge issue, and much will be made about it. But Bama hit a lot of its 3’s because Kentucky’s perimeters could not keep the dribble in front of them. That’s a scary proposition with Auburn up next. Offensively it looked like the Wildcats from December. They shot 34% from the field, only made four treys, and had 19 turnovers versus only 7 assists. The worst part of the good and bad Olivier Sarr showed up again while B.J. Boston and Davion Mintz seem to struggle against the Tide’s athleticism. In a nutshell, it’s back to the old drawing board as we get toward the halfway point of the season.