College Basketball

Cat Grooming

December 12, 2020

On Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats were able to turn a terrible day into just a bad one. 

John Calipari's Wildcats (1-4) fell to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 64-63, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

It represents Kentucky's second home loss of the season, after the Wildcats came up short against Richmond on Nov. 29, losing 76-64 to the Spiders. 

But the fact that Kentucky only loss by one on Saturday is a testament to both the young Wildcats' resilience and their youth. 

Notre Dame dominated UK to start the game, leading 33-9 at the 9:21 mark of the first half, and 40-19 at the 4:32 mark, before taking a 48-26 lead into halftiime.

But a different Kentucky came to play in the second 20 minutes, as the Wildcats outscored the Irish 37-16 in the second half, giving themselves a chance to win on a last second jumpshot from senior forward Olivier Sarr. 

"There's hope now," Calipari said after the game. "If that's who we are – those 20 minutes – there's hope. Now, we gotta play 40 [minutes]."

Sarr led UK in scoring (22), rebounding (7) and blocks (3) on Saturday, and he is one of the few elderstatesmen for the Wildcats. Calipari has made it a trend to lean on his incoming freshman talent, and 2020 is no different. 

"I'm still learning about this team," Calipari said on Saturday.

Cal's freshman class includes highly-touted wings Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston Jr., point guard Devin Askew, and forward Isaiah Jackson, and the foursome leads the team in minutes per game this season, with Clarke and Boston both averaging over 30 minutes a game. 

However, the Wildcats have struggled mightily to begin the season, and have now lost four straight, after winning their season-opener over Morehead State. 

Against Morehead State, the four freshman starters combined to score 48 points on 56.8 percent shooting. Since then, their struggles have mounted. 

Askew has recorded 15 points, five assists and nine turnovers in the past four games, while shooting 30 percent from the field.

After grabbing 12.7 rebounds per game over the last three games, Jackson finished Saturday with one point, five rebounds and no made field goals in 16 minutes. 

Clarke and Boston have carried a bulk of the scoring load, and the duo combined to score 28 against Notre Dame, but on just 39.3 percent shooting, adding in a combined six turnovers as opposed to five combined assists. 

Outside of the Morehead State game, Boston has not shot above 40 percent in a game this season, and has just six assists in five games. 

Clarke has served as arguably the lone bright spot. He scored 22 on 9-of-14 shooting in UK's Dec. 6 loss at Georgia Tech. 

However, only once this season has he had more assists than turnovers in a game – the season-opener against Morehead State. 

Next up for Kentucky is a date with UCLA – winners of five straight – in the CBS Sports Classic on Dec. 19.

It won't be the "blue blood" matchup for the ages that the two names suggest, considering neither team is currently ranked, although UCLA could be after this weekend.

But it will be a chance for UK to earn a much-needed win against a quality opponent, as the Wildcats look to reverse their fortunes and make a run at the NCAA Tournament, which they haven't missed since 2013. 


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