Sunday, February 01, 2015
Ruptured in Rematch at Rupp, UK 70 UA 55
This game was more or less a formality. The outcome was predetermined long before tipoff, and everybody in that gym knew what the end result would be. Nevertheless, our guys gave it a great effort and didn't embarrass themselves, which was really all we could realistically hope for.
With Ricky Tarrant on the sidelines on crutches, we went with a starting lineup of Retin, Levi, Shannon, Coop, and Taylor. I really wasn't crazy about this lineup because Retin has been less than reliable at point guard and Shannon has struggled all season, to say the least. Both of those guys turned in very solid performances though. Retin finished with 11 points and Shannon with 12, and both did a reasonably decent job of holding onto the basketball.
The first 10 minutes or so were pretty bad, as we looked a little intimidated and had several turnovers which led to easy UK points. We took an early 2-0 lead, but that would be our last lead of the night. Once again we struggled with turnovers early in the game. I know it was literally impossible to win this game, but I did not like our game plan. I thought we wasted too much time trying to work the ball inside or attack the basket, which is an exercise in futility against a team that is the second largest in ALL OF BASKETBALL (Only the Portland Trailblazers are longer).
As we stated before our first game with them, our only hope is to get hot and hope they have an off night. UK shot 7 of 15 from downtown. They built their lead, then did just enough to maintain a comfortable margin.
On the bright side, as mentioned above Hale had a good game, and maybe he will start to play more like the Shannon Hale of last season. I thought Levi played extremely well, he was the aggressive Levi we need. Retin actually played under control and did not turn the ball over. Jimmie Taylor managed to stay on the court, and despite being severely over-matched, Justin Coleman managed to give us 20 solid minutes at pg with only a single turnover. Rebounding has been a huge issue this year, but we somehow managed to win the battle on the boards against the Cats, who are probably the best rebounding team in the nation.
I thought the officials called too many touch fouls on both teams that negatively effected the flow of the game. Even the Kentucky fans were complaining about some of the foul calls that went against us.
It was a hard sell out and a packed house, but their fans really weren't as loud and into the game as I've heard them in some previous trips. They all know they have a special team and it was obvious from the tip that we weren't much of a threat. They did get loud in a couple of situations when it looked like we might be closing the gap.
I know I've said this before here, but if you've never been to a game at Rupp Arena, as a college basketball fan you need to go at least once if at all possible. The atmosphere and passion they have for the game and their team is second to none, but even more impressive to me is how they support their team in a first class manner. We were the only Alabama fans in our entire section, proudly wearing our Crimson knowing we were likely to be on the losing end of a blowout, but we couldn't have felt more welcome. Everyone shared their experiences with the state of AL with us, complimented our football program, thanked us for visiting, etc. At dinner before the game, a UK fan came up to our table to welcome us to Lexington and chat basketball, the people around us at the game allowed us to support our team and we never felt the slightest bit uneasy or intimidated for cheering for our team. After the game, many of their fans complimented our team's effort. They seemed to be particularly impressed with Levi Randolph. I hate to kick open this ant hill, but given the number of times we heard it I think it bears noting, that Kentucky fans generally believe that we have a good coach in Anthony Grant. Without offering an opinion, I note that I'm surprised at the great difference in perception on the subject outside of the state of Alabama versus here. Many of their fans were disappointed and surprised to learn that he is on the hot seat.
Rupp Arena itself is not really that nice. The scoreboards are in the corners and have a layout that takes some getting used to. The flat-screens hanging in front of the upper level help with replays, but the sound system consists of a conglomerate of horn speakers hung above center court (where you would normally expect a scoreboard/video board). The upper level seats are benches with no chair backs. They had a $300 million renovation project planned, but that has been put on hold. We were told the University president did not want to chip in because he wants to explore the possibility of building something on campus. For those that don't know, Rupp Arena is in downtown Lexington but is in VERY close proximity to the campus (less than a mile). I understand the desire to be on campus, but the proximity to hotels, bars, and restaurants makes for a great atmosphere, and I hope they retain that. Most of the UK fans we talked to seemed to be in favor of staying in Rupp.
Up next, we return home to take on the Mizzou Tigers Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa. Finally, the brutal stretch of January is over and maybe we can still turn this thing around. The game will tip off at 8 pm on SEC Network.