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Kentucky Wildcats 82, LSU Tigers 87: Postmortem

Kentucky falls to LSU in a game that wasn't as close as the final score.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

Well, that happened. I'd like to say I'm surprised, and I am at the way Kentucky played, but not at the loss. LSU is a very good team that hasn't played particularly well this season. Until tonight, that is.

Let's get one thing out of the way — in horse racing parlance, LSU was much the best tonight. Kentucky failed to menace, and even that last little orgy of threes was fraught with failure because Kentucky could never manage a foul. LSU deserved this win, and LSU fans should be very proud of their team. They played far harder, far better, and with vastly more purpose and intensity than the Wildcats.  Congratulations to them on an outstanding, total victory.

I suppose if you're determined to find a silver lining, you could say that Kentucky should have been blown out of this game by 20 at least. That they managed to hang in the game was a measure of credit to their ability, if not their effort and execution, which were both at a season low tonight. I have never said of this team that they didn't play hard, but tonight, several key players not only didn't play hard, they simply didn't play at all.

I don't want to point a bunch of fingers and throw myself into a fusillade of recriminations. Games like this happen every year, when you run into a team that makes challenged shots along with great plays and simply out-hustles and out-plays your team. It is what it is, and there is no sense descending into a bunch of negative finger-pointing. I'll leave that to other sites.

Very quickly, here are some points:

  • When you're on the road, you have to be hungry. I think it's safe to say this team was not hungry tonight — as a team. Some guys, though, were.

  • Dakari Johnson had his best game as a Wildcat. He's going to be a starter one day, and that day may be sooner than many people think.

  • Forget the stats — your eyes don't lie. You know who played hard, and who didn't. What we don't know is why.

  • This team is not a championship team right now. That's not an accusation or a criticism, but an observation by a person that watches basketball for part of his living. But you didn't need me to tell you that, did you?

  • John Calipari has a lot of work to do, and a short time to do it. But he can, and I think he's going to give it his best effort. This may have been his best coaching job ever, and if the team had given even 50% of the effort he gave coaching them, I think UK could have pulled this game out.

  • There are still too many players on this basketball team that are living in high school. I hope this game helps them take a step closer to understanding the difference between high school and college.

  • There was panic in this team tonight. The adrenaline was out of control. Never have I seen so many good players lay so many bricks, and they were almost all long, or too hard. I think they put too much pressure on themselves, and then failed open like an overloaded circuit. It happens. I just hope this was the only time we have to see it this season, after suffering through last year.

  • Dan Dakich was mostly spot on in his observations. I don't care much for him, and I wish he'd cancel his Twitter account and learn to be something other than a lightning rod, but his commentary was as good as any. You have to give credit where it is due.

  • These officials should be watching the NCAA Tournament from home also. They didn't really hurt UK much, and certainly didn't affect the outcome, but they called the game wrong, and I thought, badly.

  • No need to lose your minds over this. It was always going to be a tough game, and games like this are going to happen. With that said, Kentucky really needs the next game. Of course, we said that in 2011 and ...

Oh well, who the heck knows? Just ignore the pundits and enjoy the ride. Yeah, I know some of you are upset, and I was, too, but at some point, you just have to be an adult and understand that this is a young team, and young teams are going to occasionally revert. What we have to hope for is that they can get some motivation out of this failure.

So exam #1 of the midseason is an "F," because "abject fail" isn't really a grade. Sorry, but this game gets no no credit, there were countless breakdowns on both sides of the ball and UK was competitive only because they are so talented. This is not the kind of execution or effort we have a right to expect from Kentucky basketball as fans. But right now, we have to look who we are in the eye, and we are just okay.

On Saturday, Kentucky faces another test, an even better team on the road. I actually don't know if the Missouri Tigers are "better" than LSU in an absolute sense, but they accomplished tonight what Kentucky could not do; they defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena.  That says something, I think.

So ready or not, here it comes, Wildcats. The Road.  I hope they're more prepared for the next stop than this one.