We've seen this before, this team that simply doesn't have enough pieces to beat a good team. And we've seen this game before -- at Florida in January. And we've seen this response before, a few fans calling for Tubby Smith to quit (not gonna happen) and others talking about how those fans aren't real fans (whatever that means). And we're sick of seeing it all.
And good riddance to Rupp, this team says. On Senior Day, with the beloved Ravi Moss saying goodbye after four years of plucky, unbridled play, and with Patrick Sparks finishing his home career; one more game for that lightning rod for praise and criticism, whose heroics were only remembered as long as his next clanked three-pointer by a fanbase eternally in the moment. Two more Kentucky seniors added to the big day, and yet it didn't matter. Cats finish the home slate 10-5. That's one more loss than they had on the road.
How little enthusiasm the team and the crowd showed, almost as if they were both waiting tentatively for the expected meltdown. There is an element of Kentucky fans who are as relentlessly pessimistic as they are passionate -- and they're very passionate. And this team, this game, they had seen before. We all had. And so it lived up to its expectations, or down, depending.
Blessed with multiple chances to turn the game into something good, the Cats stumbled, flopped and bricked their ways into another 15-point loss to Florida, the fourth straight loss to the Gators. It was only a year ago UK fans -- myself certainly included -- were talking smack about how Tubby owned Billy Donovan, to the point where Florida's head man admitted he had to change his recruiting philosophy to approach Kentucky's level.
And then he went out and did that. On Sunday, his stable of mobile, athletic big men murdered the Wildcats on the boards, and with Randolph Morris stuck high-fiving Adam Williams on the bench, there was no answer from the Cats.
Only Joe Crawford, tallying 21 points on mostly off-the-cuff three-pointers and dribble drives, seemed to play big. But he's a guard, not a forward. On this day, Sheray Thomas and Bobby Perry lived down to billing, role players providing no role. Ditto Shagari Alleyne and Woo. No answers.
As a matter of fact, we witnessed this game several times this season. Cats get smacked in the face by opponent, Cats back down and take it. I guess it's just not a year for Big Blue pride?
Instead of showing the Gators how it's done, our boys talked about showing up instead of actually doing so. Rekalin Sims backed up his Friday smack talk with 3 minutes, zero points and zero rebounds. Joakim Noah, the object of Sims' trash, meanwhile was too busy dominating the paint again to notice. The departing seniors scored 20 points combined, or one less than the sophomore Crawford. Sparks shot 3-for-10 on his Senior Day. He won't get another.
And maybe that's a good thing for him, since in his two-year UK career, he managed to shoot 12 percentage points lower from beyond the arc at home (18-for-57, 31.6 %) than on the road (38-for-87, 43.7). So much for a home court advantage.
I won't pile on the Rupp crowd too much. After all, they need something to cheer and they didn't get it in the second half Sunday. They could do with a little humility, I suppose, though you never want it to come at the hands of the Florida Gators in basketball. But so be it.
Tubby saw the same game we did, only from much better seats.
No, they didn't. But we sort of expected that one, didn't we? Because it's been this way all season long, and most of us can't explain how unmercifully long this season has been. Sure, we could pretend -- and have, frankly -- that we're accepting of 19-11 (9-7 SEC); that we can deal with a down year. Plenty of schools would be OK with making the NCAA tournament. Belmont is going this year for the first time ever, and I'm sure they don't have much sympathy for our at-large "plight."
But we're not Belmont, and we cannot accept it, and that's why it hurts so much.
Tubby continued post-game, noting how you hate to lose in the seniors' last game:
We did that Sunday, too, Tubby. But unfortunately, those memories were all too fresh. We'd seen this one before.