Thin, Hampered UK Falls to UCLA 87-77
I wondered how a relatively young Wildcats squad would handle its first true road game, but it was really a combination of that jarring reality with a key injury in the first half that led to an impressive 87-77 UCLA win over a seemingly disconcerted Kentucky Thursday evening in Westwood.
Credit UCLA for focusing on the Kentucky front court, forcing the 'Cats into a perimeter game that hasn't quite yet become their specialty.
Credit UCLA also for its best performance in a couple of seasons--the impeccable defense, the sharp-shooting. I'm sure head coach Steve Alford would like to see this effort every game, not just when a big name comes to town.
Plus, there's a little motivation from that 39-point beatdown the Bruins suffered at the hands of the Wildcats a year ago in Chicago.
Add to that an undisclosed head injury to junior forward Marcus Lee that permanently removed him from the game in the first half and a somewhat hampered Tyler Ulis, UK's rock-solid sophomore point guard who's still nursing an elbow hyper-extension suffered in last Friday's South Florida tilt, and you really do have a recipe for what prime-time ESPN viewers saw Thursday night.
And while Big Blue Nation hates to see a loss--and this was Kentucky's first regular-season one in more than 630 days--it's a hoops-savvy collective that recognizes reasons for such turns of events...if it wants to.
Hey, no coach will ever SAY a loss is good, but John Calipari KNOWS a loss can be good when it serves as a priceless motivational tool and something from which you can learn.
I'm not saying a fully healthy Kentucky would've waltzed out of historic Pauley Pavilion--the program's first-ever visit there--with a victory.
But the result might have been in doubt until the final buzzer.
And we all know UK opponents bring 110%, especially at home.
But back to Marcus Lee. It's being reported that the big man, an ace rebounder, may have suffered a concussion. He'll have plenty of time to heal and get back on his feet.
But this should serve as a good lesson for these Kentucky freshmen. They have another true road game in just under two months. And it's in an arena where visiting teams seldom leave with a win--Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
Yep, on the road against the Kansas Jayhawks.
Hey, this is the kind of schedule a team like Kentucky SHOULD be playing. Big names versus big names.
And it's just December 3rd.