Kentucky did not get the win at Allen Fieldhouse, but the loss did reaffirm that this team is gaining steam as it heads to March. They needed another good showing in Knoxville in another hostile environment to keep that evolution from becoming a devolution.
The 'Cats roared out of the gate and looked to make it a Super Snoozer on Super Tuesday but shoddy defense allowed UT's best player, Kevin Punter, to get going and bring up the rest of the team and arena.
The lead at halftime had shrunk from 21 points to now just 6 at 42-36.
The second half the Vols pretty much picked up where they started and it seemed it was going to be a back and forth all night at this point.
Kentucky would get outhustled, outshot, outrebounded, out-everything down the stretch and lost to a team they should have put away early
What Did We Learn?
Fouls are still a problem: Kentucky fouled a lot at Kansas (as well as were called for a lot of 'fouls') and that trend continued as UK went into the half with FIVE guys with 2 fouls. Within 4 minutes Isaiah Briscoe had 4 fouls on him, inexplicably.
We Cannot Defend the Three: In all of our losses, the other team hit the three-pointer at a high clip... this game did not change that. Tennessee hit big three after big three and after being down 21, they took the lead with 14:00 left in the game. They may not have shot above 50% but they did hit around 10 three pointers.
Tyler Ulis is a Point Gawd: Good lord what else does this guy have to do? If he was 6'4" he would be considered a top 5 draft pick. He sets his teammates up so well, there was one particular sequence where he hit a three to take back the lead, then led a 2-on-3 break and penetrated hard, knowing they would crash only to hit a wide open Derek Willis for another 3 and a crowd quietening shot. He also twisted his ankle and re-tied his shoe and went about his business.
The Frontcourt continues to be missing in action: Poythress had a nice start to his night but went into hiding once again and got his fourth foul with 10 minutes to go. Marcus Lee continued fouling at a torrid pace and playing reactive and Skal Labissiere... well, he was his normal self unfortunately.
Rebounding was Embarrassing: Tennessee did not start a player over 6'5", yet they got offensive rebound after offensive rebound. If Tennessee does not continue to get second chance points the outcome would have been determined long before the end.
The Offensive Flow: Once again it seemed with the going got tough, the 'Cats offense turned into mud flow. They struggled to get any good looks and hardly ever got the offensive board. Not having a low post presence kills our flow and unless we are getting transition looks and threes, we are a struggling offense.
Jamal Murray is Fearless: Murray seems to always have spurts where he is unstoppable, and then disappears. If we can somehow get a middle of the road Murray we would have something.
We have NOT turned a corner: We all thought we were beginning to become that team, but we still have a ways to go. It is not all the way back, but we took 3 steps forward, and 2 steps back tonight.