John Calipari

No. 8 Kentucky’s 55-game home winning streak snapped with loss to Baylor

13 Comments

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.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

VIDEO: Duke’s Grayson Allen beats No. 7 Virginia at the buzzer

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Leave a comment

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
Leave a comment

Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.