Young 'Cats Fail First True Road Test at Notre Dame
Firsts are not rare for John Calipari’s UK teams as each group has featured high roster turnover.
His newest team faced one of those first Thursday at Notre Dame in its first true road test of the season. With a 64-50 loss to the Fighting Irish, the second-worst loss of the Calipari Era, the young Wildcats’ test came back with a failing grade.
“What disappointed me (is) we didn’t compete,” Calipari said. “They beat us to balls. They beat us around the basket.”
The game started well for UK as the Wildcats jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first five minutes, but Notre Dame then went on a 21-6 run to take a commanding lead.
UK trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half and never pulled closer than 10 points.
The 14-point loss was just the second double-digit loss in Calipari’s four seasons at UK. His second team suffered a 17-point loss to Connecticut in Nov. 2010.
“Just got out competed from start to finish,” said senior guardJulius Mays. “I didn’t feel like we played hard. They competed harder than we did, and they came out and wanted it more than we did.”
The 50 points scored marked the lowest point total of the Calipari era. The previous low was 55 in the 2011 Final Four loss to Connecticut.
UK shot a season-low 40.4 percent (19-47) from the field.
The Wildcats were 4-14 (28.6 percent) from three-point range, while Notre Dame was 8-15 (53.3 percent) from deep. All four of UK’s threes came from Mays, who finished with 16 points.
Freshman forward Nerlens Noel was the only other Wildcat in double-digits as he finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. His freshmen teammatesArchie Goodwin and Alex Poythress, the Wildcats’ two leading scorers entering the game, combined for six points.
“It’s the first true road game,” Calipari said. “A bunch of young kids trying to figure it out. What I hope they figure out is you’ve got to do it together.”
With a game against Baylor in less than 48 hours, the Wildcats have little time to dwell on the loss.
That game will be played at Rupp Arena, but Mays noted the team also must quickly get over any road jitters.
“We all better get used to it,” he said. “It’s going to be a night in, night out basis (where) crowds are going to be like this everywhere we go.”
Calipari repeated his normal early-season mantra about the difficulties of coaching a brand new team each season. That task is nothing new for him, but he hopes this team soon learns to provide a better effort.
“I didn’t expect us to come in here and play out of our minds, but I would’ve hoped we would’ve competed,” he said. “I thought at least against Duke we competed, we battled and we fought like crazy (in a loss). In this game, we just didn’t.”
Written by Jon Hale of KY Forward, an RCN partner
PHOTO: John Calipari on the sidelines at Notre Dame/Jon Hale