Before Saturday’s matchup against Louisville, it had been 31 days since the Kentucky men’s basketball team had walked off the court with a win. And after a rocky week that saw head coach John Calipari ask freshman Cam’Ron Fletcher to step away from the program, Kentucky was in desperate need of something positive to hang its hat on. But unfortunately for the Cats, that elusive second win slipped through their fingers once again, as the Cardinals took the 62-59 victory after freshman BJ Boston’s game-tying three-point attempt fell off at the buzzer.
Despite the loss, several Wildcats actually had great individual performances, the most impressive of which being from starting guard Davion Mintz. After connecting on 4-6 from three and 6-12 from the field, the graduate student recorded a team-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and a pair of assists.
“He (Mintz) is so appreciative of this opportunity to be here, playing here, playing for us and our staff,” Calipari said. “So he’s in a different mindset, which is why you start playing the way you’re playing.”
Starting in the place of an injured Terrence Clarke, freshman Devin Askew continued his solid performance of late, adding seven points, three rebounds and a trio of assists. But perhaps most surprisingly, it was Jacob Toppin who made one of the biggest impressions in Saturday’s clash against the Cards. The Rhode Island transfer tallied a Kentucky career-high 10 points on 5-7 shooting to go along with six boards.
But the lack of consistent offense from the remainder of Kentucky’s starters proved to be too much to overcome, as Olivier Sarr, Boston and Isaiah Jackson combined for just 19 points on 5-21 shooting. And of the 19 combined points, Boston registered 11 (3-11 FG) to go along with seven rebounds.
Defensively, the Cats continued to struggle protecting the paint, allowing 32 Louisville points down low. Carlik Jones and David Johnson carved up the Kentucky defensive at will, scoring 20 and 17 points respectively. No other Cardinal recorded more than eight points.
After trailing by just one at the half, Kentucky began the second with an energetic spark, jumping out to an early 34-30 lead on a trio of fast-break baskets. But one of those all-too-familiar offensive lulls that Kentucky has battled all season reared its ugly head once again. After Mintz’ layup with 17:15 to go, the Wildcats would fail to hit a field goal again until a Toppin jumper with 9:16 left in the game.
It looked as if the Cats were dead in the water after a dunk by Jae’Lyn Withers gave the Cards a 56-49 lead with 4:49 left to play. But Kentucky had one last run left, using a 10-3 spurt over the next 3:44 to knot things up 59-all. Louisville took a 60-59 lead before Sarr’s go-ahead jumper rolled off the rim with eight seconds left on the clock. And after the Cards hit a pair of free throws to take a 62-59 lead, it was Boston’s game-tying three-pointer that missed just long as the buzzer sounded.
With the loss, Kentucky falls to 1-6, its worst start to a season since 1911. Their next confirmed game is currently scheduled for January 2 at Mississippi State. However, it’s been reported that Kentucky may try to schedule a game in place of the matchup against South Carolina that was originally slated for Tuesday but was postponed due to a combination of positive cases, contact tracing and individuals quarantining among the Gamecocks’ program. Tipoff for Saturday’s matchup against the Bulldogs is set for 6:00 pm.