Kentucky took their first defeat of the season Sunday at the hands of sneaky mid-major Richmond in Rupp Arena, losing 76-64 in what was a historically bad offensive effort.
After putting up 81 points with relative ease against Morehead State, the Cats struggled to put the ball in the hoop all around the court. They hit only 12/25 layups, went 16/27 from the free throw line and failed to hit a three pointer for only the second time in 33 seasons (0-10). Among the shooting difficulties, they also had just five assists in the first half and totaled zero in the second, while giving away 21 turnovers by the final buzzer.
“We tried to make everything hard,” UK Head Coach John Calipari said today. “I’ve never seen a team with five assists and no assists in the second half.”
One aspect of the matchup that really helped the Richmond Spiders stroll to victory on Sunday was the lack of fans in Rupp Arena due to safety guidelines in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Normally the Cats would get a “second push” from fans in stands whenever they are in a tough game, but that was not available this weekend and likely will not be for the near future.
Due to this, each team will have to create their own energy, which UK guard Terrence Clarke acknowledged Richmond’s bench did on Sunday and mentioned that it is something they will have to do Tuesday night in Indianapolis against Kansas as no fan will be present. Even with no spectators, however, Clarke pointed to just playing the game of basketball as the main focus, as they are extremely motivated to bounce back after suffering a double-digit home loss over the weekend.
“No fans is different, but it is basketball at the end of the day,” he said.
The Kansas Jayhawks also come into this upcoming Champions Classic matchup 1-1 on the season, with a 102-90 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga and 94-72 win over St. Joseph’s. Bill Self’s squad is very guard oriented, sometimes playing with four, even five, guards in their lineup to stretch out the floor. In fact, their top three scorers so far are all guards (Braun – 19.0 ppg, Agbaji – 17.5 ppg and Garrett – 13.5 ppg). Senior guard Marcus Garrett is the leader of the team, as he is the returning national defensive player of the year by many rewarding outlets and is running the point guard position this season.
“They play five guards and they play their point guard as the 5-man. It’s amazing stuff. They’ve got some vets. Their post player is physically tough and will fight. They’re downhill runners, and got good 3-point shooters. It’s going to be a hard game for us,” UK coach John Calipari said.
Kentucky will likely be without sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. as Calipari said today he will be out for another 2-3 weeks due to a calf injury. Even without Brooks, the Cats’ length will be important in getting out on Jayhawk three-point shooters (Kansas is 44.7% from three so far) and contesting at the rim. With that said, if they cannot finish around the bucket against smaller KU guards, it could be another rough outing.