Willie Cauley-Stein had some good moments, but could not scratch from the line. - USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky falls to Louisville in a hard-fought game that saw the Wildcats get down by as many as 17, and yet wind up with a chance to win in the end.
Nothing ruins my day more than losing a game, any game, to the Louisville Cardinals. It would be easy to blame all sorts of things for this loss, including the officiating, but let's be honest -- missed calls are part of the game, and it always looks one-sided to a partisan, particularly on the losing end. Also, we should note that it was Louisville in foul trouble, not Kentucky. So let's leave it there.
All you have to do is look at the fact that Kentucky shot just as well from the arc as from the line: 48%, and they got there a lot. That's unacceptable, and if you really want to blame anything for this failure, let it be that.
Congratulations to Louisville. They won a game by a little that they were supposed to win by a lot, and frankly, that's the best I've seen them play, overall, considering the competition. In their defense, however, this was a rivalry game and that absolutely matters, just in case you forgot about that somehow. Also, Gorgui Dieng was clearly not himself, and had very little impact on the game. Had he been available all year, odds are he would have a much bigger factor.
Let me say at this point that it pisses me off to have to write this postmortem. I hate losing to Louisville. I hate it with a purple passion. However, I do understand that I will have to do it now and then. Better, I guess, than having to be Mike at Card Chronicle and have to do it four times in a row. I guess I should really shut up about that now and consider that 1-4 is way preferable to 4-1.
When looking at this game, I think the biggest thing we can take away from it is that these young Wildcats grew up a lot today. Calipari, to his great credit (and almost nobody not a Kentucky fan will notice this) risked the game by letting them play through the difficult time, and trusted them to figure it out. They did, and Kentucky had a chance to win this basketball game despite the fact that they never had the lead in the second half and only at 61-63 was the game within one possession.
There is still a lot of work to do on this group. They have to learn patience, they have to learn confidence, and they have to learn the importance of making free throws. Archie Goodwin has to learn to trust his teammates and not try to take over games without including them. Yes, he was huge, but he also was arguably responsible for the bad plays that cost us the game,although I would say there is plenty of blame to go around for that. He has to learn to trust, and right now, he doesn't. His five turnovers were mostly due to two things -- lack of understanding of time, score, and position, and lack of trust.
Ryan Harrow played well. He didn't really play great, but he was very, very good, especially considering he did not make a single turnover. He made several "hockey assist" type turnovers, though, where his pass put the player who made the turnover in a bad situation. He needs to do better at that, but I'd take this game from him every time.
I love the fact that Kyle Wiltjer shot well, but he has to do more. He just has to be more of a threat to score when 3-pointers aren't there. He was either making threes, or being a liability.
Julius Mays had a tough game, but he made a huge shot that almost changed the old adage to "The eighth time pays for all."
Nerlens Noel did a lot of things, but scoring wasn't one of them. He has to score more. He must.
I hated Alex Poythress in this game, and so did Calipari. He logged only 15 minutes. He just doesn't get it yet.
Calipari made a bad call at the end of the game, not calling that timeout. That was an error that he is lamenting even as I write this.
Jarrod Polson was great. He was the least talented player on the floor, and played like a veteran in the moments he was in.
Willie Cauley-Stein was a mixed bag. He did some great things, and then he missed every free throw he took. But he got 8 rebounds and made some huge plays, including 3 blocks.
Overall, the team was better. They were a lot better, even though they had a period where they arguably lost the game by letting Louisville get into them and build a large lead. There are a lot of things that could have gone better, but frankly, as much as I hate losing to the Cardinals, we have to give them credit for doing what they had to do in spite of a furious UK comeback. Last year's Cardinal team would definitely have lost this game, so you have to give them credit for getting it done, and getting it done through adversity.
I'm not happy. I know you're not happy. But life goes on, and we'll have to get 'em next year.