By KEITH PEEL
In the immortal words of Yogi Berra “it’s like deja vu all over again.” That’s exactly the phrase that came to mind as I watched the University of Kentucky lose to UCLA in Rupp Arena on Saturday.
The game against UCLA looked just like the game I watched the 2014 UK team play against Wisconsin in the NCAA Final Four which looked just like the game I saw UK play against West Virginia in the Elite 8 in 2010. In all three games I saw a UK defense that consistently was beaten off the dribble on the perimeter, allowed open 3-point shots on the wings and corners and did not block out on the boards to eliminate second chance baskets.
I saw a UK offense that settled for jump shots, played at a snails’s pace due to UCLA’s strategy of encouraging a half court game and couldn’t finish at the rim when they had the opportunity to do so due to UCLA’s physicality and the referee’s inconsistent whistle. Those same traits that brought down the 2010 team and the 2014 team also brought down the Cats on Saturday.
Inconsistent outside shooting and a lack of desire to take the ball to the basket along with poor perimeter defense and rebounding will get you beat every time against a quality opponent. Even if you have a 42-game win streak on your own home floor.
I realize this team is very inexperienced but even the experienced players (Willis, Briscoe) did not step up to right the ship in critical situations throughout the game. Briscoe (4 out of 14) continued to settle for jump shots (to the delight of the UCLA coaching staff) and Willis was at best inconsistent in his efforts on defense and rebounding throughout the game.
Fox and Monk showed they both have more to learn about good shot selection during ” crunch time” against a quality opponent and UK’s inside players (Bam and Isaac) currently have very little ability to post up and finish against a physical team that has the length to match up with them. They both finished a combined 4-14 from the field.
With all that being said it took a “perfect storm” of poor shooting, lack of effort and focus on defense, excellent play by the opponent and inconsistent officiating to defeat this UK team at home.
The best take away from this game is that it is a learning experience which will allow each player and the team as a whole to improve for the games to come. That is a luxury the 2010 and 2014 teams did not have after their similar losses in the NCAA tournament.
Sent from my iPhone
Sent from my iPhone