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Vols complete sweep of Cats; Calipari says “this one is on me”

Quade Green (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Just when it looked like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was going to be the reason Kentucky managed to beat Tennessee, the freshman made two fatal turnovers.

Both came in the final minute and enabled Tennessee to rally for a 61-59 win over Kentucky here Tuesday night. It was Tennessee’s first win in Rupp Arena since 2006 and first series sweep of the Cats since 1999.

Gilgeous-Alexander had scored five straight points to give UK a 58-56 lead and the Cats got the ball back with 1 minute, 7 seconds left after Tennessee missed a 3-pointer. Coach John Calipari chose not to call timeout and Gilgeous-Alexander lost the ball with 47 seconds left.

Lamont Turner buried a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left over UK guard Quade Green to put Tennessee on top.

“That obviously was a huge shot,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “He’s not afraid to take the shot and his teammates have confidence in him, too.”

Then with :08 left, Gilgeous-Alexander got caught in traffic and turned the ball over that led to a runout for Admiral Schofield with :04 left and a 61-58 lead.

“That game was in my hands to do something with and I dropped the ball,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said referring to his decisions not to call timeouts in the final minute.

Calipari said hopefully as a coach he helps “my team win more games than I cost them” but he repeated several times he should have called timeouts before Gilgeous-Alexander’s turnovers.

“I don’t like to in this situations, but this team is too young,” Calipari said. “The kid makes the 3 at the top. We still had the ball down one. I should have called a timeout. This one is on me. It’s not on the team. They did everything they can to try and win the game.”

Barnes said he almost called timeout before Turner’s big shot.

“I am sure Cal is doing some of that to take away (blame) from his guys. He’s a great coach,” Barnes said. “I understand Cal saying that. But believe me he’s made a lot more right decisions than wrong.”

Tennessee was 22 of 52 from the field and only 5-for-21 from 3-point range. However, it held Kentucky to 19 of 45 from the field and 3-for-14 from 3-point range.

“Our guys believe in each other and we just talked about staying with it defensively and we would find something to get it done. We didn’t know where it would come from, but we got it,” Barnes said.

Gilgeous-Alexander, who played 39 minutes, had 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting and also had six assists and six rebounds. He had just one turnover until the last minute when he made two. Green also had 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting.

Calipari credited Tennessee for not folding when Kentucky had chances to create a gap but never could.

“Give Tennessee credit,” Calipari said. “It was touch and go and it looked like this thing was ours. But they don’t stop. Give them credit. The chance we had to win the game fell to me and I let it go. We did some good stuff. We had some turnovers that were unnecessary.

“But we are on the right track now. If this is who we are, I am feeling good.”

Really?

Kentucky is now 6-5 in SEC play and 17-7 overall. The Cats play at Texas A&M and Auburn in their next two games and could be on the verge of the first three-game losing streak at UK in the Calipari era going to Texas A&M Saturday. Kentucky also has road games at Arkansas and Florida to go.

Hamidou Diallo played just 13 minutes, including four in the second half. He missed all three of his shots and did not have a rebound or assist.

“He wasn’t engaged defensively,” Calipari said.

Kevin Knox was 3-for-11 from the field and had 10 points, three rebounds and one assist in 37 minutes. P.J. Washington was 0-for-3 from the field and had three rebounds in 17 minutes.

“We had some spells that were so bad. Why did you … that’s what young kids do,” Calipari said

Bad spells? That’s been the norm for this team and that’s why I am just not sure UK fans are going to believe that UK got on the “right track” tonight like Calipari said it did.

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  1. This is one Fugly basketball team and the most apathetic team I remember seeing in my 50 yrs of watching UK BB. This team has earned a collective F in basketball 101. They can’t pass, can’t control the ball, take or hit good shots and play sporadic defense. PJ is the biggest Dog out there followed closely by Diallo and Knox. PJ is a totally emotionless statue out there and the worse fouling machine on our team. Know and Diallo are still not sure why they are on the floor, and we get nothing out of SKJ or Gabes every game. We had 2 starters that didn’t score a point. Why in the world would we really want PJ, Knox and Diallo back any way? They have to be a cancer on this team. I do H this team unlike any other UK team followed that time span.

    1. Obviously, this team has not met expectations, but maybe those expectations were unfounded to begin with. This team has no chemistry at all but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Most of these kids were the “man” on their high school teams and were used to being the number 1 option offensively while letting others do the grunt work of playing defense and rebounding. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. There will be those who will say this team can still come together, but that is very unlikely. It used to be that players came to Kentucky for the purpose of being part of a winning tradition. This group is thinking of nothing other than getting to the NBA as soon as possible. There will be no players drafted from this team in 2018. All need more experience, serious strength conditioning, and develop a commitment to being a team first and not be focused on the NBA. Some may leave early and not get drafted in the first round, some may go to Europe, and a couple may transfer but this team is what it is. Look at what Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes have done with lesser rated players. Cal should focus on kids who want to come to KY, including our better players in state. Look for kids who have high basketball IQs, have sound fundamentals, relish physical play, and have a strong desire to win. Duke is getting the cream of the crop these days, so why not get back to bringing players in who want to get a degree, want to win conference championships, and want a shot a national championship…the NBA will only have room for a select few. Bring back the student athlete and forget this one and done stuff…make watching KY basketball fun again.

  2. I didn’t watch the game for the first time in memory.
    I’m sick of this team and Cal’s excuses.

  3. Pitiful all the way around from Coaching to players! No time out at the end? Unreal!!!

  4. On another note, Cal has said he is not going to keep coaching forever and I understand that. He has said he will stay until his son graduates in 2 more years. You can see the toll this season is taking on Cal. Don’t be surprised if he leaves when Brad does. I fully expect Louisville to make an offer to Coach Payne and for him to take it. If these events come to pass, who knows who will be the next skipper here?

  5. “…we are on the right track now. If this is who we are, I am feeling good.”

    Cal may be feeling good, but a lot of us aren’t feeling so well these days.

  6. I’ll chime in again. This is Cal’s weakest team at UK, and has been from the jump out of the starting gate in November. When they played most of the game from behind against Mark Pope’s Utah Valley State team, it was a horrible signal that has been confirmed repeatedly.

    We should all know that John Calipari is the best coach in college basketball based on his accomplishments not just at UK but before he got here. The problem with this team is not the coaching, it is the players who have made multiple statements through this season that they hear the right messages from their coaches, but the players also say “we know better” than coach Cal. This is disgusting, and unacceptable. Not a one of these players has “earned” even a sniff from a NBA GM, but we will bear witness in about 6 to 8 weeks of the annual parade of UK players directly to the NBA draft to “test the waters”

    I am sick of the “testing the NBA waters” when the players refused to even wade into the UK waters, much less try to swim in our waters when the UK water is the warmest pool in the world in which to do the testing.

    To the NBA, get rid of the “one and done” rule. It violates all precepts of free enterprise, and if you are intent on robbing the craddle, do it on your own, and take all the risk you want, but leave our college game ALONE. Take your frigging hands off our game!!!!!

  7. Didn’t even watch the game because I am tired of watching Diallo think he is a shooter, Knox who thinks he just needs to stand at the 3 point line and wait for the ball, and Washington who doesn’t know how to post up or grab a rebound. If I was Cal, I would bench those 3 for the next few games. Hey, we can lose with ’em or without ’em, but their lack of effort and failure to play team ball should put them on the bench. I don’t understand why Richards gets benched for not blocking out and Knox gets the green light when he has no effort whatsoever on defense. Doesn’t make sense.

  8. I know one thing, Barnes can coach. Texas made a big mistake letting him go a couple years ago. There is some toughness and will to win that shines through on this UT team. The guy don’t even have his own fancy office. Imagine that in this primadonna world we live in today. That said, there is not many sports teams I dislike more than UT. Let me also add right here that crazy Bruce Pearl, the national embarrassment for the UT program a few years back, is apparently fully forgiven now and his conduct swept under the rug. He will rise to the top of his profession again if Auburn wins the SEC regular season championship this year. Add the UNC BS ruling,with no violations and punishment for cheating, and I must conclude there is no justice anymore for schools who play by the rules. Louisville must be reeling about now for the lack of oversight given to the NCAA’s pet teams.

  9. I don’t like the fact that some people talk trash about this team. You people put too much expectation on yourself what this team should be doing. It is what it is this team has gone through. it’s not end of the world like some people think it is. Cal has done more good than bad for UK it just happen that this year team hasn’t come as a group and it could be a good thing in the long haul for next year season.

    1. Csts 79….The sky has fallen on this season. The players have never checked in and many of us have checked out. This is not UK basketball we have been watching. The players are controlling the coaching staff.

  10. Mike, The sky still shining the last time I look. I haven’t check out on the team. i’ll still cheer them on rather they lose or win. I’m telling this you could be a blessing what’s happen because none of them are NBA materal players.

  11. This team really does need to forget about whats going to happen in the postseason and just work at playing as a team. The offense is lost if one on one play is checked and other teams have seen that this team does not want to play defense for 30 seconds as evidenced by the Ole matador style of just letting a guy dribble right past them to the bucket. Our guards have to stay with shooters on the 3point line without going Ole. They need to start rebounding too instead of snow birding. Losing to a better team is part of the game, but we are losing to lesser teams due to our lack of effort and focus. Forget the NBA, just work on being competitive, play as a team, and let the W’s come as they will.

  12. “forget the NBA”

    Exactly how does that work?

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