Kentucky's Win Over Alabama More Reassuring of Problems than Promise
Kentucky didn’t lose Tuesday, and that’s the most uplifting way to describe it. Jon Hood said after the Wildcats missed 19 of their 25 first-half shots, Kentucky needed to redefine itself; all the while, it seemed Kentucky and Alabama were challenging the concurrent definition of basketball itself. Kentucky had made six shots in the game’s first 20 minutes, yet the Crimson Tide only led by three.
The No. 25 Wildcats eventually won 55-48, making seven of their first 11 shots after halftime but immediately slipping back into the offensive indifference that has defined the second half of this season. Kentucky is not in cruise control, because that would imply some level of control is being exercised. The Wildcats’ last three games have been apathy personified.
To Hood, the team’s redefinition is as simple as players getting out of their own heads.
“Just go play,” Hood said. “That’s the thing. Go play. Players are going to play, coaches are going to coach, and officials are going to officiate. You can’t get all boggled up with the officials and how they’re calling the game or how, if coach is on you or whatever. We’re 18-year-old men. Eighteen and above. I’m 22. We know how to play basketball at this point, just got to go play.”
Kentucky’s guards Tuesday shot as follows:
Aaron Harrison: 2 for 8, 1 of 6 (3-point)
Andrew Harrison: 2 of 6, 1 of 3
James Young: 1 of 11, 1 of 10
That’s a combined 5 of 25 and 3 of 19 from deep, which—as you may have guessed—is not good. It’s neither good in a vacuum nor good when considering the context of the last few weeks, that the team’s best three scorers (from outside 10 feet, anyway) could shoot a combined 20 percent in a game (and much worse from three) and the consideration is more toward fixing a problem than ignoring an outlier.
Kentucky’s season has been circuitous in its habit-breaking promises and near-immediate relapses. Young has been fighting his perimeter trigger, and he was lauded recently for passing up quick shots and instead driving to the basket to take contact and get to the foul line or, if nothing else, take higher-percentage shots. His shot nearest to the basket Tuesday was somewhere around 17 feet.
Young’s case is interesting, because he challenges (and has challenged all season) Hood’s notion that shooters should have no conscience. The idea is to move on from misses and not let them affect what happens next. It’s an admirable trait. Then again, if a shooter is consistently missing, at what point does the value of forgetting misses outweigh the fact that a shooter who isn’t having a good night—sometimes it’s as simple as that, it’s not your night—keeps taking a lot of low-percentage shots?
John Calipari is publicly insistent that his young team will become un-young at some point and not rely on positive emotions from made shots to play hard on offense, that losses to Arkansas and South Carolina (and narrow wins over Alabama) won’t define a team that still has time to make something of this, that we’ll all forget about this when this team makes a run. Calipari has insisted that youth won’t define this team, yet his constant references to their performances mention their youth without fail. While we wait for Kentucky’s redefinition, it may be best to stand by until its arrival is confirmed.
Photo: Harrison & Young/KY Forward