If you haven’t heard, the Kentucky Wildcats lost 67-64 to the Evansville Purple Aces. What’s even more embarrassing is that Kentucky paid Evansville $90,000 to make an appearance at Rupp Arena, entering the game as 25-point underdogs.
Coming off the season’s most impressive effort by any program in their victory over the then top-ranked Michigan State Spartans, Cal’s Wildcats looked like a ghost of their season-opening selves.
They didn’t come out with the effort it takes to win at the D-1 level. Losing by three, Evansville lead for around 30 minutes, something that should be even more difficult for Kentucky’s die-hard fanbase to get over.
This was just the first time in NCAA history that the nation’s top-ranked team lost twice in November. Duke will likely be awarded the association’s No. 1 spot now.
It wasn’t just the score that should have fans worried. It’s the fact that the team was out-rebounded, out-hustled and out-shot.
How does a team that brings in three five-star recruits, two of which are elite athletes at the small forward position, get out-rebounded? How does 6-foot-11 junior forward Nick Richards haul down just six boards?
Coach Cal has an explanation, and it doesn’t come with a single excuse.
“Well, within the last minute and 20 seconds, they had two offensive rebounds where you had a chance to win, but you gotta go get balls. And literally we couldn’t. Guys were running out. We had, we worked for a month, maybe longer, toughness because I knew that would be a key. And we reverted today. You saw a team that was way tougher than us,” Calipari said after the loss.
Evansville was +3 in rebounding. All three of those excess boards for the Purple Aces were on the offensive end, boasting 11 to Kentucky’s mere 8. Those were the difference maker as Calipari noted.
However, there was a few other numbers to note about one of the decade’s most shocking upsets. For starters, Evansville was +13 (!!) on three-point attempts and ended the game with 15 more points from deep.
Lastly, although Kentucky was able to get to the line, they were also out-shot by Evansville, who totaled six more attempts. It was an all-around poor night, but it was the lacking hustle that needed to be at the forefront of these issues for Kentucky.
We may also be able to tag this one as inexperience. Every single player that saw time for Evansville was at least a sophomore while Kentucky played at least three freshman 20 minutes.
It showed. They couldn’t get stops or play in the paint. This team has some things to figure out.
It wasn’t ideal, obviously, but this team will grow because of the loss. They were put in a uncomfortable situation, and Coach Cal knows that’s exactly what it may take to push this team to the next level.
Coach Calipari on his job as a Coach— Jaycob Ammerman (@Jammer2233) November 12, 2019
— Kentucky Wildcats TV pic.twitter.com/AmGb1LXzto
It’s far, far too early to write off this Kentucky team. Don’t take in the national media that says this is all over and Coach Cal’s team will collapse. They’ll be fine.
They’ll wake up, but this one will sting.