Today in Gainesville, the Kentucky Wildcats pretty much validated themselves as a disappointment this season, missing out on their final regular-season opportunity to defeat a ranked team. Not only did Kentucky fail to defeat Florida, the were dominated from beginning to end. Only an early second-half run to get the game from 21 to within six gives Kentucky fans a reason for event the most tepid optimism going forward.
Congratulations to Florida, they played a very good game, executing sharply on offense and defense. Florida made a bunch of three-point shots, and all but one of them were wide-open looks. I don't count Scottie Wilbekin's 27-foot dagger as a "good" shot, as it was a shot that any team would normally concede to an opponent. If you can shoot it from out there, good luck. But other than that, the Gators did what Kentucky did not — they made their layups, they made their open shots, and they defended very well.
Kentucky today was not significantly different from Kentucky all season long. They have struggled to execute on offense and refused to play defense for longer than 20 seconds or so. Kentucky played 13 minutes of good basketball, 8 minutes of so-so basketball, and 9 minutes of poor basketball and 10 minutes of really bad basketball. Florida, on the other hand, had about an 8 minute stretch where they couldn't stop Kentucky. Other than that, they played very, very well.
Game Stats (click to embiggen)
This makes now five games in a row where Kentucky has not played anything remotely resembling a good game. Draw whatever conclusions you will.
Getting beaten at Florida is no sin, even when they are not as good as they are this season. But Kentucky was uncompetitive for large stretches of this game, and it's hard to find a silver lining in a 19-point defeat.
There is very little, at this point, that Calipari can do about this basketball team. If teams double-team Julius Randle, the Wildcats have absolutely nowhere to go for reliable scoring. If they leave Randle 1-on-1, Kentucky can beat anybody. Unfortunately, everybody knows that.
You have to make open shots from three to force teams to open up the middle. Kentucky didn't. Why Florida got away from double-teams on Randle is anybody's guess, but when they did, Kentucky made a huge push.
Kentucky is still a dangerous team if you don't play them right. Unfortunately, if you do, they are not that tough.
Every time a UK player drives into the paint and takes a challenged shot rather than hit an open shooter, it takes a day off my life. I lost about 2 weeks today.
Kentucky made a nice comeback in the second half. That was both unexpected and welcome, and is the sole bright spot in this game.
Passing was once again poor. It was okay at times, but after Kentucky made their big run, it was back to the Dribble Drive, Fling, and Hope. The hope was not rewarded.
Kentucky clearly lacks confidence, not only in themselves, but in each other. That's what's killing them, and unless the find it lying around somewhere, it will continue to kill them. When they are making shots, they can be deadly, but you have to learn how to win when shots aren't falling, and you do that with defense. They haven't figured that out yet, and they are pretty much out of time.
Well, we have the SEC and NCAA Tournament left to go. I know many of you are frustrated, and so am I. The truth is, though, that happens to a lot of teams every season, and having back-to-back seasons where teams did not perform as expected is a new, and unpleasant experience under John Calipari.
Of course, a deep run in the NCAA Tournament is still possible. Just as youth taketh away in games like this, it can also giveth in the form of unexpected cohesion and good play. No, I'm not betting on that and neither should you, but unless you've given up (and I'm sure some of you have), that's about all you have to hope for. It's not a good feeling, know, but it will have to do.
As always, we'll be here at A Sea of Blue. Kentucky's season goes on, and it will be nothing if not interesting. The second season starts now, and you know Calpari is going to preach that. Maybe it will work.
I'll have the postmortem up later tonight or tomorrow morning.