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Kentucky Wildcats 76, Arkansas Razorbacks 77: Postmortem

Tell me if you've heard this one before.  Close game, on the road.  Kentucky is playing well enough to win, and has the lead.  A sudden failure of execution by a tired point guard, and the opponent gets a steal that sends it into overtime, where they hang on to win by one.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, that has been replayed at least five times this year for the Kentucky Wildcats.  This one, though is unquestionably the killer.  Losing this game to Arkansas is the equivalent of a thermonuclear detonation on the confidence of both this team and the Kentucky fans who support them (well, at least this one, anyway).  It doesn't seem to matter who the opponent is, or how well or poorly Kentucky plays.  There are three things that are always the same:  It's always close, it's always a failure of stretch execution, and it's always a loss.

Congratulations to the Arkansas Razorbacks.  They were certainly due a victory over Kentucky as this once-great rivalry had faded to nothing but a memory with ten straight Kentucky wins over the Hawgs.  That streak is now officially over, and Arkansas certainly deserved to win this game as hard as they played.  Marshawn Powell and Rotnei Clarke were terrific, and Julysses Nobles made the big three that provided the final margin of one point.

More after the jump.

What went wrong?  Heavens, I don't really know.  Everything.  And nothing.  And all points in-between.  We rebounded the ball like we were playing little boys, and yet Kentucky lost the ball maybe ten times out of bounds on rebounds they should have had.  Blown layups?  Many.  Can't make threes?  Check.  Where's Waldo Doron?  Check.  Best player goes off in Liggins face?  Uh-huh.  Talented but underachieving player has his best game of the year?  Yepper.  The enigma that is Terrence Jones?  Sho' nuff.

John Calipari must be getting tired of saying, "young team" as an excuse for this.  Frankly, Calipari's exasperation should now be complete, and if it isn't, I have to question his humanity, or perhaps his sanity.  I know that I am completely vexed to the edge of rationality, and it would take only the tiniest nudge to send the men in white coats to my house.  It's like a nightmare that you can't wake up from.

Overall, I thought the team played well at times, and poorly at times, particularly on defense.  Allowing Rotnei Clarke to shoot seven straight free throws and get a four-point play is as bewildering as Sanskrit.  The sequence of events that led us to this pass is so far beyond unlikely that there is no adjective available to describe it --  except maybe, "Epic fail."

I'm sorry, but I have to be honest -- that's what this game was, an epic fail by inches.  The failure is so complete and comprehensive not in the context of the entire game, but in the minutiae that led to the defeat, that it is very much like being killed one centimeter at a time.  It takes a long time, and a lot of blood, and you just barely die, but die you do.  Just as the trees in Toomer's Corner will gradually die due to poison, Kentucky's season (and NCAA seed) has gradually withered to the point where it just gradually expires.  Maybe this is what waterboarding feels like.

Well, the good news is that we can only suffer this sort of excruciating, ego-destroying defeat one more time on the season.  I have no hope whatsoever that it will be otherwise, and I could even be convinced that this is a cosmic conspiracy by nefarious, Wildcat-hating deities to torture the Big Blue Nation into collective madness.

At this precise moment, I am inches away from just that.  The only thing that keeps me sane at the moment is the almost daffy notion that neutral courts might actually be different.