The Kentucky Wildcats were back in Rupp Arena Sunday for a clash with the Richmond Spiders, a veteran-heavy team predicted to win the Atlantic-10.
Despite leading 32-28 at halftime, the Cats were thoroughly outclassed by the senior-heavy Spiders, who blew away Kentucky in the second half en route to a 76-64 win.
This is the first loss for Kentucky this season, and it’s pretty clear why John Calipari said he was hitting the panic button coming into this week.
Thankfully, it’s still very early in the season, and Richmond was already expected to be an NCAA Tournament team. Now they’ll likely be a top-25 team in the next round of polls.
Here are five things to know from this one.
BJ Boston, Olivier Sarr and Terrence Clarke
Boston and Sarr carried Kentucky in the first half against Richmond. Literally. The two combined for 26 of the Wildcats’ 32 first half points and was really the only offense that Kentucky could muster up the entire game. It seemed that Kentucky had no real identity on offense today aside from just letting Boston and Sarr score in the first half, and then Clarke in the second.
Terrence Clarke chipped in, in the second half and the three combined for well over a majority of the Wildcats’ points. You will not win a game by having three players score almost the entirety of your points. Kentucky and Calipari need to figure out an identity on offense before Tuesday’s bout with Kansas.
It may still be too soon to declare who is and is not the best player on the team, but Boston and Sarr are making their cases as the two best on the roster for John Calipari.
Cam’Ron Fletcher earns start over Isaiah Jackson
Cam’Ron Fletcher got his first career start at Kentucky in just his second game over Isaiah Jackson, who was dealing with a twisted ankle, and according to Jimmy Dykes and Dan Shulman, had not practiced and was sitting on the sidelines dealing with said ankle.
Fletcher filled in for Jackson, presumably due to Fletcher’s great game against Morehead State on Wednesday, but struggled against a veteran-lead team in Richmond. I would expect Jackson to fill back in, in the starting lineup on Tuesday against Kansas.
Free throw struggles and shooting
A Kentucky team struggling at the free throw line? I am shocked. Kentucky didn’t shoot the best from the charity stripe against the Spiders. Everyone seemed to be missing at the line from, Sarr to Clarke to Jackson to Boston.
If this team is going to put it all together, free throw shooting is a must-have. Free throw shooting lost the game for Kentucky. Well, one of the reasons they lost.
On the same spectrum, Kentucky did not shoot the ball well at all today, struggling from behind the arc, and even inside the paint, struggling to hit even the simplest of layups. The Cats finished 0/10 from deep, marking just the second time in the last 33 years Kentucky didn’t hit a triple in a game.
Last year, the Wildcats had a knockdown shooter in Immanuel Quickley. This year, they have so far not established an automatic three-point shooter.
Defensive struggles and turnovers
The Wildcats struggled on defense against Richmond, getting burnt on backdoor cuts and letting the Spiders get anything they wanted, really. A lot of it was just freshmen not being adjusted to the college game yet and getting burnt by a team comprised of four senior starters.
Help side defense was also another huge issue, as Richmond would constantly get into the lane and dish it for a wide-open layup.
Kentucky also managed to constantly turn the ball over at every possible scenario, which is your typical freshman move that we’ve come to see at Kentucky. The Wildcats had almost 20 turnovers, which will lose you a game against anyone.
The freshman struggles
Kentucky once again has freshman who are struggling adjusting to the college game. BJ Boston had very little struggle, but every other freshman showed just how young they are when placed up against a veteran team like Richmond.
Constantly getting beat for loose balls, not paying attention on offense or defense, etc. it is your typical freshman-lead team at Kentucky.
Now, let’s talk about it.