For some reason, the Kentucky Wildcats seem to always struggle in Knoxville. Is that because of Rick Barnes? Some kind of curse?
I’m not sure, but the Wildcats really struggled to play good basketball on Tuesday and ultimately fell to the Tennessee Volunteers 76-63.
Kentucky was led in scoring by Oscar Tshiebwe with 13 points. Oscar continued his double-double streak with 13 points and 15 rebounds, but it was not enough to propel the Wildcats to victory.
Overall, Kentucky looked overwhelmed and lost in Thompson-Boling Arena yet again. This is not a building where the Wildcats feel comfortable. Here is what you need to know from this cringy performance from Kentucky.
In the first half of Tuesday’s game, Kentucky went nearly 11(!) minutes without a field goal. That’s more than half of the first half. If you have a team with Oscar Tshiebwe, Kellen Grady (who took zero shots through that point, by the way), and TyTy Washington, how does that happen?
Sure, Washington is coming off of an injury. And the defense is keyed on Grady and Oscar. But that is absolutely going to happen in March. Scoring droughts like this are how you get eliminated by a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is something that Kentucky needs to find an answer to, sooner rather than later.
Hot Shooting Volunteers
This was nearly the exact opposite of Kentucky versus Tennessee in Lexington. Kentucky turned the ball over a ton, and the Volunteers shot the lights out. For a significant portion of the game, it seemed like every shot was going to go in. That adds to the frustration of a lack of offensive output by Kentucky early, and it certainly makes it more difficult to come back.
Around the 19-minute mark of the second half, TyTy Washington came up limping after the ball was stolen from him. He was obviously frustrated on the bench, clutching his knee. He did not return during the game.
Should Washington have taken another game to heal? Was his health part of the reason he was not effective while he was in the game? I’m not sure how to answer those questions. But this team is obviously better with Washington in the game. So his health should be a priority moving forward.
While Kentucky has been known to force turnovers this season, giving the ball up has not been a huge problem. But given that they caused very few against Tennessee, compared to 20 in their first meeting, the fact that they gave the ball away so often was a huge problem on Tuesday.
Kentucky went into the half with five turnovers, but had four more within a minute of the second half and ended with 14 for the game. It is almost impossible to expect to win when you lose the turnover battle like Kentucky did in Knoxville. Hopefully this was an anomaly, and not a symptom of a bigger problem with Washington’s health in question.
This rest of this post was written in hopes that Kentucky would mount a mighty comeback. However, they continued to look inept in the second half. The defense struggled, the offense looked as thought they were playing against seven defenders, and Oscar spent too much time on the bench.
I want to say, “Hey, this was in Knoxville, and Kentucky always struggles there.” But will the NCAA Tournament committee see it that way? Is this a game where you can shrug off an move on? Let’s hope so, because it also has the opportunity to set the team back in their development.