It was easy for the Kentucky Wildcats’ sixth straight losing coach John Calipari to face a 62-59 loss to rival Louisville on Saturday and to this point: “The losing stink.”
“Let me just say that again, losing the stench,” Calipari said. “We had our chances, and we had some breakdowns.”
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Kentucky fell to 1-6 for the third time in program history, starting by the Wildcats.
The Wildcats created their chances late in the game but did not score a field goal for the final 3:22. Devin Askue missed a 3-pointer that left Kentucky with 23 seconds to go and Olivier Surr’s jumper with eight seconds left, and hit every part of the rim before falling. Brandon Boston Jr. missed a desperate tying shot in the final seconds.
Kentucky’s typical offensive performer struggled on Saturday, missing all eight attempts on the field by combining Sarr and Terence Clarke. Clarke was dealing with an ankle injury – he did not start, and Calipari said he is almost 80% healthy – while Sarr has not scored a field goal in the last two games against Notre Dame by 22 points.
“We went into the game, ‘we are going as many times as we can throw the ball to him,” Kalipari said. “That was our game plan. They did a good job doing something, fighting and doing some work. And they missed a few shots. When you start to miss shots, it starts playing with your confidence. Gives. It’s not like we’re not going to him. We are. “
Saturday’s loss gave Kentucky its first six-game loss since the 1988–89 season, while it was the first 1-6 start in 1989–90 by any SEC team after Elias.
Perhaps more than that is the fact that no team that started the season with a 1-6 mark has ever received a big bid in the NCAA tournament.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Kalipari said. “We haven’t played a league game yet. We do what we do. I’m not moving, I’m not cracking.”
Kentucky’s scheduled SEC opener against South Carolina was postponed Tuesday due to COVID-19 issues, so the Wildcats don’t play again until a trip to Mississippi State next Saturday.
“Suddenly, you punch in the mouth and you start tasting blood, how do you react?” Kalipari said.
“How do we limit some breakdowns? … Where is the leadership right now where we had opportunities? We have our opportunities and we have left them all.”
Kentucky entered the season with only one player who looked on the court last season for the Wildcats, advancing Kayon Brooks, who has yet to play this season due to injury. After a season-opening win over Morehead State, Kentucky has lost to Richmond, Kansas and four straight ACC opponents.
Kalipari questioned his decision to schedule such a difficult start for a young and inexperienced team after a brief preseason.
“We need more time for all the team-building materials that we do here all the time,” Kalipari said. “We build teams in the summer. We build teams in the fall. We’re making time. We don’t want to be where we need to be, but we’re making time.”
“You can play games you can win to build confidence. … It’s the stupidest schedule I’ve ever put together. I want to put myself in the mouth.”