The Kentucky Wildcats were back in action on Saturday afternoon as they faced off against UNC Wilmington.
It was a big day inside Rupp Arena as the brand-new floor was finally installed, and Aaron Bradshaw was making his long-awaited Kentucky debut.
The Cats were without DJ Wagner in this one due to the injury he suffered against Miami, meaning Reed Sheppard was making his first career start.
It was a slow start for the Cats as they were missing a lot of easy ones early, and that forced Calipari to take a timeout at the 15-minute mark, trailing 13-4.
Kentucky continued to look out of sync offensively and was turning the ball over at a much higher rate than we have seen in any game this season.
With just under 7 minutes to go in the first half, it was still UNCW holding on to a 22-17 lead.
Unfortunately, things didn’t turn around after the timeout as UNCW built their lead to 32-22 at the under-4 timeout.
UNCW led by as much as 14, but Kentucky started to find some life late in the half but still trailed 41-33 at the break.
The second half got off to a great start for the Cats as they stormed right back in this game, and a Reed Sheppard three gave them a 48-46 lead.
Sheppard continued to have a huge impact on this game as he drilled another three to make it 55-49 Cats with just under 13 minutes to play.
However, UNCW did not stop fighting and converted two and-ones and two other free throws to make it a 56-55 ballgame.
At the under-8 timeout, things were not going much better for the Cats as they found themselves down 62-56.
With just over 5 minutes to play, the Cats had cut the lead down to 64-62 and were going to have to fight to escape this one with a win.
Unfortunately, the Cats could not make the plays down the stretch as UNCW got the 80-73 win.
Here are six things to know from the loss.
Kentucky debuts new floor in Rupp Arena
A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Kentucky would be getting a new floor inside Rupp Arena, replacing the old floor with the giant blue stickers that have been an eyesore the last few years.
With the end of the home volleyball games following the volleyball team advancing to the Elite 8, it was finally time for the new floor to be installed.
Here are some pictures of the new look Rupp Arena floor.
Aaron Bradshaw makes Kentucky debut/ DJ Wagner out with injury
The wait was finally over for the BBN as Bradshaw checked into the game for the first time with 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
It didn’t take long for him to get in the scoring column as Rob Dillingham fired a pass in to Bradshaw, who turned and dunked it for his first points as a Wildcat.
Bradshaw finished his debut with 3 points, 2 rebounds, and a block.
Unfortunately, Bradshaw was not on the floor with his high school teammate, as DJ Wagner did not play in this one due to the injury he suffered against Miami.
It was obvious that Kentucky missed Wagner in this one as Kentucky did not get off to the same fast start, and turnovers were a big problem on Saturday.
Kentucky looked young on Saturday
Many times this season, Kentucky didn’t look like a bunch of freshmen on the floor. That wasn’t the case on Saturday.
For one of the few times this season, Kentucky looked like a young team still figuring out the college game.
Hopefully, the Cats get healthy and bounce back next Saturday.
Miami game hangover?
Kentucky put together their best performance of the season on Tuesday night against No. 8 Miami as they cruised to a blowout win.
Then on Saturday, the Cats looked to be two steps behind all throughout the game as they were getting beat defensively, missing easy shots, and turning the ball over a lot.
Could the Cats have had a hangover from their big-time win over Miami on Tuesday?
Reed Sheppard bounces back in second half
Sheppard has been outstanding in every game this season for the Wildcats, but the first half in his first career start was by far the worst he has played this season.
However, the second half was much better for Sheppard. He started the half with a pass to Justin Edwards for a dunk, an assist to Antonio Reeves for a three, three free throws, and then buried a three himself from deep to give Kentucky a 48-46 lead.
Sheppard scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half and was the only consistent option for the Cats in the second half.
Kentucky caught the turnover bug
The Cats entered Saturday’s matchup averaging just 8 turnovers per game. On Saturday, they accumulated 9 in the first half with over 6 minutes remaining and finished the game with 14 total turnovers.
A very uncharacteristic performance from a team that has been very disciplined and done a great job at taking care of the basketball.
Now, let’s discuss what just happened.