By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky has made a habit of making more free throws than an opponent even takes. That didn’t happen at Auburn Saturday.
Instead the Tigers got to the foul line 44 times and made 33 while UK got 24 free throws and made 20.
That was the most free throws any team had shot against coach John Calipari at UK since Kansas took 47 in the 2016-17 season. The only other time a UK foe shot more than 44 free throws against Calipari was North Carolina with 45 in the 2013-14 season.
Calipari made no direct mention of the officiating after the game. Instead, he said several times to “credit Auburn” and said his team’s foul trouble did not lead to the defeat by limiting who he could play.
“I played five guys at UMass,” Calipari said. “Know what? Those guys figured it out (about how to play and not foul).”
But an unlikely source did blame the officials for UK’s loss. ESPN analyst Dan Dakich, a former college head coach, first posted this on Twitter during the game: “Kentucky not being allowed to play in this game..quick whistle on The Cats,” Dakich tweeted.
Then he really took a shot at the officials.
“The worst officiating of the year in UK Auburn .. UK was absolutely taken out of this game .. Terrible,” Dakich tweeted.
Another ESPN analyst, Jay Bilas, worked the game at Auburn. He did seem to lose track of how many fouls had been called in the second half when he said a lot of fouls were being ignored. However, pay attention to what he said at halftime.
“Kentucky has got to do a better job defending without fouling. Twenty free throws that first half is just too many for a team that is having trouble scoring the ball,” Bilas said.
Guessing here that Calipari would agree with him, too.
Another ESPN analyst, Seth Greenberg, thought when Hagans picked up two early fouls in the first half it changed what Auburn’s offense could do and also limited what UK could do offensively.
“I thought when Ashton went out that Auburn went to more pressure and they outplayed Kentucky on the glass,” Greenberg said. “When Hagans went out (in the first half) it changed the rhythm of the game and enabled Auburn to extend its defense and on the other end also drive and draw fouls. That changed everything.”
Or was it just “terrible” officiating like Dakich thought?
Then consider this point that former UK point guard Roger Harden pointed out on Twitter that hit home to me:
“When u watch your opponent shoots 20 more free throws than u & u see your mates going 2 the bench n foul trouble you start to play passive on ‘D”’just to stay in the game .. it looks like no effort but it’s not.. I’s why we lost the battle on the boards … poor reffing has a domino effect,” Harden tweeted.
To me, that might have been the best analysis from anyone about the game.