Home Win Steak Ends at 55 as UK Falls to Baylor at Rupp
This coverage of UK Basketball appears courtesy of RCN partner KY Forward and is written by Jon Hale.
Any hope that the UK men’s basketball team would rebound from the second-worst loss in the John Calipari Era with a demonstrative statement versus Baylor was quashed Saturday.
Instead the Wildcats shot just 29.6 percent from the field in a 64-55 loss, snapping the nation’s longest home winning streak at 55 games.
“I’m not fazed,” Calipari said after the game. “I knew we weren’t very good. What I need our players to understand is, that we are not a very good team right now and we are not individually very good.”
UK shot 18.2 percent (4-22) from three-point range and turned 21 offensive rebounds into just eight second chance points. Baylor shared UK’s shooting struggles for much of the game, but the Bears found their stroke in the second half to open up a 10-point lead.
UK pulled within three points with 8:23 remaining but could get no closer.
“We are still trying to teach them how to finish games,” Calipari said. “They don’t know.”
The loss was UK’s third of the season. The Wildcats dropped back-to-back games for just the second time in Calipari’s four seasons as head coach.
“It’s a learning process,” said freshman guard Archie Goodwin, who led the Wildcats with 16 points. “Better to lose early than late. We can do all this now, but it’s really going to matter in March.”
It’s that attitude that has Calipari concerned.
“The teams I’ve had that started like this, (like) the team two years ago where we lost those late games, they hated to lose,” he said. “This team…you’ve got to hate to lose. You can’t be OK to lose to Duke. It’s not OK. We lost.”
Asked to clarify his comments about losing at this stage in the season, Goodwin qualified that assessment but said he was not discouraged.
“I’m not saying that this loss doesn’t affect me, because it does,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s still a learning stage for us now. If we keep stringing them back-to-back, that’s going to become a problem for us.”
Freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein agreed with Calipari’s assessment that some of the team isn’t as affected by losses as he might like.
“Some individuals do, and some of us — It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that we haven’t been in this kind of environment where winning is everything,” he said.
Calipari has been trying to establish more realistic expectations for a team that was ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls despite returning just one contributor from the 2012 national championship team for most of the season. With three losses in the first seven games, it seems like fans and his players are starting to believe him.
“Personally, I think we needed this,” Cauley-Stein said. “Coming in here, we have probably the best fan base supporting all of our wins and the national championship, and I feel like we came in here thinking that we were that team. But we’re not that team.
“I think after the Notre Dame game and they stormed the court — it was our first road game in November — it really struck home. We’re literally everybody’s championship game, and we’ve got to start playing like it’s our championship game every time we go out there to match their intensity.”
Calipari is frank about the current ability of his team, but he is also preaching patience.
“I told them after, ‘We are not a very good team, and we don’t have very good players right now. Each individual player, you think about how you played. You’re not very good right now.’” he said. “But, I still like my team. And I said, ‘We can do what we want with this. We can be special, or we can be what we are right now, sitting in the locker rooms after L’s.’”
Whether fans will be as patient as Calipari and players may like remains to be seen, but at least one Wildcat is not concerned about how fans will react to back-to-back losses and the end of the home winning streak.
“They basically have no choice,” Goodwin said. “They can be as impatient as they want to, but at the same time if they’re really for us, they’ll understand us and work with us through this process.”