Kentucky has the athleticism. Kentucky has the raw talent. But the Wildcats’ cold shooting and inability to find the right fit for all its different pieces led to a second-straight loss, 64-55, to Baylor at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Saturday afternoon.
The loss was momentous for John Calipari’s Kentucky program for a number of reasons, each of which speaks to what UK has been able to accomplish in Calipari’s tenure.
To put it in perspective, Kentucky had not lost at home since March 9, 2009, when the Wildcats, then coached by Billy Gillispie, lost to Georgia.
Since that loss, Kentucky had won 55 consecutive games at home, by far the longest active streak in Division I. The record now belongs to Kansas and Syracuse, who have both won 25 straight, according to ESPN.
Previous to Saturday’s loss to Baylor, Calipari had never lost a game at Rupp Arena during his time with the Wildcats.
Before this 2012-13 ensemble that Calipari put together, he had not lost two games in the month of November while in Lexington. Losses to Duke and Notre Dame have changed that.
Not only did Kentucky lose two games in November, but they lose their first game of December, marking the first time the Wildcats have lost two straight games since February 2011. At that time, UK lost to Ole Miss on Feb. 1, then again to No. 23 Florida on Feb. 5.
On Saturday afternoon, Kentucky shot just 21-of-70 from the field, including 2-of-9 from senior Julius Mays, 1-of-9 from sophomore Kyle Wiltjer, and 3-of-15 from freshman Nerlens Noel. The team collectively missed 10 of its last 11 shots on the game.
Some of the blame certainly falls on shot selection, but many good shots also simply weren’t falling for Kentucky. The Wildcats shot 4-of-21 from three-point range, failing to extend the Baylor defense away from the basket.
Kentucky had chances to make a push and, at times, did so. After Baylor ballooned the lead to nine points with just under 11 minutes remaining, Kentucky worked its way back and a Mays three pulled the Wildcats to within three.
But inexperience showed itself again, as Baylor guard Pierre Jackson pulled up for a mid-range jump shot and knocked it down while getting fouled. His free throw stretched the lead back to six.
Foul trouble thinned out Kentucky’s frontcourt in the second half, with Willie Cauley-Stein sitting with four fouls and Noel picking up his third foul with 18 minutes still left to play.
Noel finished with just one block, but grabbed 15 rebounds.