No. 3 Kentucky drops game to Baylor; is it a concerning loss?
Will this greatly alter the perception of these Wildcats?
For the second straight season, Scott Drew's Baylor Bears have defeated John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats.
It was a weird night all around. Terrible weather over the past 48 hours led to thousands of canceled flights and miserable road conditions, preventing many fans from even going to this game, which was held at AT&T Stadium, site of the 2014 Final Four.
The massive building can hold 80,000 people: Maybe 5 percent of that made it through the turnstiles Friday night. The scheduled 9 p.m. local-time tip was pushed back nearly 90 minutes thanks to the preceding tilt, a record-breaking four-overtime game between the Kentucky and Baylor women, won 133-130 by the Wildcats.
By the time the men tipped off, the stadium seemed eerily quiet and void from any atmosphere appropriate for two top-20 teams playing each other. Baylor and UK traded a few leads, and had Kentucky been able to capitalize in the second half on loose balls, offensive rebounds and free throws, I think it would've won by a few buckets. Instead it was Kentucky's inability to conquer the myriad zone looks Drew tossed at the Wildcats that led to the 67-62 final. The win improves Baylor to 8-1. Kentucky is now a 7-2 team.
Baylor's Kenny Chery, a JUCO transfer from Canada, finished with a game-high 18 points. Isaiah Austin, who said, at the very least, his Baylor program was every bit Kentucky's equal, finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
It's a really good win for Drew's team, which was something of an unknown coming into this season. Plenty weren't sure whether this group would contend in the Big 12 or fight for a bubble bid. Baylor looks plenty capable now, though, and the dynamic displayed tonight is promising. Not an elite group, but the talent in Waco, for what seems like the seventh straight year, is undeniable.
As for Kentucky, questions aplenty. Calipari was visibly upset with his team's lack of hustle and heart. (Shooting 12 for 23 from the foul line is never good for the soul, either.) This group is so talented, and at times they can make scoring look easy and natural. Other times, they look like the freshmen-dominated team that they are, a group still yet to jell. Two losses one month into the season doesn't mean we've overrated Kentucky, but it does mean Calipari's got another project on his hands. This team hasn't proven to be special; if anything, it's showing signs similar to last season, when UK went to the NIT.
I'm not saying we'll get a coda on that campaign, however.
The challenges don't slow for UK, which gets a really good, undefeated offensive team in Boise State at home on Tuesday, then will play North Carolina next weekend. UNC is coming off a win at No. 1 Michigan State.
Part of why Kentucky is always in the national conversation is because the Wildcats are always interesting and providing some level of drama. They're in the thick of that now, once again.
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