Kentucky dropped to 8-14 overall and 7-9 in the SEC after a 70-62 loss at Ole Miss last night. The defeat was UK’s first to the Rebels since 2011, and ensured the first losing conference record since the 1988-89 season.
In every loss this season leading up to the game, Kentucky had a negative assist/turnover ratio. That streak ended last night, as UK instead had 17 assists and just six turnovers.
The real problem was toughness. Kentucky was outrebounded 42-28 including 11 offensive rebounds, pointing to another team attribute in which the Cats have struggled with all season.
“It’s just disappointing because all I keep saying is, look, we’ve just got to worry about us being our best. Well, you’ve got guys who are trying to be cute. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. When it’s you and that guy and he throws you to the floor or you’re not ready to battle or you don’t hit first, you’re not going to get the ball,” UK Head Coach John Calipari said.
Mental toughness can also be labeled as a failure for this outing, as UK went 15/25 from the free throw line. Despite shooting 89% from the stripe in the last three games, Kentucky could not find their rhythm there, and it cost them a bigger chance at victory. Overall, UK reverted once again after taking seemingly major steps late February.
“Normally my teams understand, ‘OK, I’ve got it, I see what he’s saying, I’m hearing him now and this is the way I play.’ And then they go on from here and they’ve learned how to fight, how to make it personal with another player. ‘It’s you and me’. And they learn all that here. They learn that winning matters. They learn dagger plays. They know what they are. And we were getting to where I’m like, all right, we’re getting this. We’re going to be good. We’re going to be one of those teams and all we have to do is crack this and this and this is going to be one of those. And then we revert back for two games. Totally revert back,” Calipari said.
Now looking at an 8 or 9-seed in the SEC Tournament, Kentucky’s momentum is shocked and their March Madness hopes are all but over.