Where have you gone, O home court advantage?
In a result simultaneously unthinkable and utterly predictable, Vandy's 72-67 victory in Lexington yesterday accomplished a myriad of things, not the least of which was to shatter the UK fanbase's illusions of grandeur.
What had been a curious but heretofore benign trend of allowing open three-pointers on the defensive end finally caught up to the Cats, who allowed 11 threes and Vandy 50% shooting overall. The Wildcats' vaunted defensive pressure crumbled every time UK got close to taking control, allowing a maddening series of drives late in the shot clock and threes in transition.
On the offensive end, the cold shooting at their home arena, combined with a return to the one-on-one weave offense we all so desperately hate, meant Vanderbilt has now won three straight over our beloved Cats, something I'm not sure anyone on this end of things ever thought would happen.
But it has, and with a game Wednesday at suddenly very dangerous Georgia, there is no time for self-critique, only game film and rectification of errors.
Meanwhile, the program's record at Rupp Arena over the past two seasons falls to 21-6, an ugly reminder of what has become of a once hallowed place. Some blame it on fans, others on the team's offensive persecution, me on all of it, but the fact remains that Uk is as beatable if not moreso at home. Playing at Rupp is not threatening to opposing fans any more than playing at some neutral site. While it can get loud and awash with blue shirts, the nervousness with which the home team plays there -- playing not to lose rather than to win -- is palpable.
And those godawfully unforgiving rims ... for the good guys, at least. Joe Crawford (4-for-17), Ramel Bradley (0-for-5 3s) and Jodie Meeks (1-for-6) all contributed to more bricklaying than a Habitat for Humanity get together. It was not the first time that's happened.
The loss not only ended UK's 11-game win streak (3rd longest at the time), but slammed the door on anyone's calls for the Cats to be ranked among the top 25 in either major poll, despite the fact that this team is still better than no less than 7 of the teams that will be ranked. Immaterial now.
A thoroughly unsatisfying way to close out the "beatable" SEC opening. Not the end of the world unless it lingers. But Georgia is another team that likes to shoot, and Tubby Smith and his staff had better find a way to get the doldrums out of their charges or a 3-2 league record, and a requisite amount of fan grumbling -- no doubt awaits.