Kentucky had their chances, but the No. 6 Wildcats missed two wide-open threes on the final possession of the game as they suffered their second upset loss to an unranked team, falling to Utah, 69-66, on Wednesday night.
The Wildcats trailed by double-figures early in the first half and dug themselves a 17-point hole midway through the second half before finally waking up and making a run. Tyrese Maxey broke out of his slump and finished with 18 points while Ashton Hagans added 16 points, eight assists and four steals, but it was not enough to get over the hump.
As a team, Kentucky shot just 2-for-17 from three, including a pair of misses in the final 15 seconds of the game. And that, in the end, was the undoing of this team. They did not defend all that well, allowing Utah to shoot 55 percent from the floor and 8-for-15 from beyond the arc, but far too often, the only offense that Kentucky was able to muster came as a result of forcing turnovers and getting out in transition.
Editor’s note: Need Kentucky hoops tickets? Click here
I’ve said before that this team reminds me a bit of the 2014 Kentucky team, the one that had some 40-0 hype in the preseason, finished the regular season with 10 losses and reached the NCAA tournament. But I’m starting to think that this group is more like the 2013 team, the one that went to the NIT. Now, I don’t think that these Wildcats are going to miss the NCAA tournament - the 2013 team would not have missed the tournament if Nerlens Noel didn’t tear his ACL - but they also just did not have the talent or the right fit to ever truly have a ceiling.
Put another way, the 2014 team underperformed all year before waking up in the NCAA tournament.
The 2013 team was just OK, and it showed in how they played.
This team has that same feel.
They entered Wednesday night shooting under 30 percent from three, which is atrocious. The only guy that has shown flashes of being a dangerous, go-to scorer, Maxey, has also been nothing if not inconsistent. They have to play three small guards because their wings are not good enough. They can’t get to the offensive glass. Their bigs are lost defensively.
Maybe I’m being too harsh, but the more that I watch this team, the more I think they are destined for a first weekend exit in March.