Abandon ship?

Kentucky appears to be on the rocks, but no one giving up yet

By Brian Rickerd Published:

LEXINGTON — The splashing sound heard around Big Blue Nation Saturday night may be traced to Kentucky basketball fans jumping off the ship following an unfathomable 72-67 loss at South Carolina.

That on the heels of a 71-67 overtime loss to a weak Arkansas team at Rupp Arena two days earlier.

But senior guard Jarrod Polson says the UK players will not quit, despite some recent signs that suggest otherwise.

‘’I think we’re in a good spot (compared) to where we could be,” said Polson, who will be honored with senior teammate Jon Hood tonight when the Wildcats host Alabama. “I don’t think we’ve given up on the season at all.”

Polson suggested, in fact, that the resolve for this Kentucky team, now 21-8 and 11-5, is greater than ever.

“I think we’re just trying to improve and work harder than we ever have before,” he said. “We really don’t think the season is over. We think we can write our own story, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We can’t look at the last two games and say we’re done.”

The 25th-ranked Wildcats and Crimson Tide (12-17, 6-10) tip tonight at 9 on ESPN.

Kentucky closes the regular season Saturday at No. 1-ranked Florida at noon on CBS in a matchup that now looks like the Titanic meeting a massive slab of North Atlantic ice.

Hood said the Wildcats are taking a bunker mentality.

“It is kind of us against the world,” Hood said. “It’s on us; it’s not on anybody else. We kind of got our backs against the wall, fighting the way that we need to.”

Hood and Polson also insist the Wildcats’ woes are not the fault of Coach John Calipari.

“He’s not out there playing for us,” Hood said of Calipari. “He’s not in between the lines (actually he was at South Carolina, which is one reason he was tossed by the officials, but that’s another story). He can only do so much.”

“People are kind of hounding Cal right now, but at the end of the day, it’s really on the players,” Polson said. “No matter how he’s coaching, we have to respond to that in a good way. We know that, at the end of the day, we have to go out and perform.”

The players get no argument from Calipari, of course.

“Where we are right now has no bearing on where we’re going to be,” Calipari said. “It’s what are you willing to do to get yourself to play better. We’re good enough to do what we have to do. Now, the biggest thing is that when adversity hits, will you come together?”

At the very least, UK fans can take at least a few minutes away from their anguish tonight and honor Hood and Polson, both Kentuckians — Polson from Nicholasville and Hood from Madisonville — and two of the rare seniors to play for Calipari.

“This was always my dream school,” said Polson, who came to Kentucky as a walk on, earned a scholarship, and has been a steady contributor. “I was a Kentucky fan my whole life, and my dad was his whole life before that.

“I knew if I ever got the opportunity to play for Kentucky, I would take it. So it’s really just a dream come true for me to be here.”

Hood signed with the Wildcats when Billy Gillispie (oh, the horror) was the coach, and came in as a top-40 national recruit.
But a knee injury midway through his college career held Hood back, and this happened in the midst of Calipari’s parade-o-athletes recruiting.

Still, Hood said he has no regrets about signing with UK.

“It made me look at things in a different way,” Hood said of his knee issues that made him redshirt during Kentucky’s 2012 national championship season. “It’s made me look at the relationships I had with people, helped me develop my sense for basketball, love for basketball in a different way. It just made me respect the game a lot more.”

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  • I agree with Legion for the most part. I have been a UK fan since I was a youngster. I went to UK and root for all Kentucky teams but I always root for UK when they play any other Kentucky school. The first 5 losses were by a total of 21 points. The last 3 losses by a total of 19 points. 8 losses by 40 points or average loss of 5 points. They only had one double digit loss (10 points) so far this season and it was to the #1 team in the country at home. That game was a lot closer than indicated by the score. Last year they had 6 BIG double digit losses thru the SEC tournament. Does anyone really want to go back to Billy G, Tubby Smith or Eddie Sutton type coach??? Ease up fans!!! Don't believe everything you hear and see on the internet.

  • Interesting article, but I saw no mention of the fact is that UK gets everybody's best game and Arkansas was not "weak" that night. Actually, the Hogs lost to Florida at the Swamp by 2 and at Missouri by one.  Inspiration is not readily apparent in the box scores.  But I watch a lot of SEC games and see these teams that look like elite 8 contenders against UK, stink up the joint against other foes.  Look at any of the 9-7 or 8-8 SEC teams and they all have signature wins...but they are woefully inconsistent.  Take LSU for instance...did you see their Florida game?

    And speaking of inconsistent, the Cats freshmen obviously have world beater skills and athleticism, but they are inconsistent in both performance and hustle.  When their shots aren't dropping, then sulk and get beat down the floor in transition.   When their shots do fall they celebrate and get beat down the floor in transition.  And they just play dumb.  They obviously are not having fun.

    They don't have an offense in the paint, something that Bobby Knight and other ESPN analysts have pointed out...and that is on the coach.  Their offense is one of the twins drives and throws up a tear drop.  Or they bounce pass it to a posted-up big, who then tries a one-on-two/three move under duress, often with little success. There are no screens set up in the paint to free them up as they cross the lane.  It is all NBA stuff of creating your own shot...and they just aren't that physically dominating against some of the bad dudes in the league.

    Overrated? Why yes they were!  What this proves is that Mickey Dees All-American freshmen aren't necessarily better than juniors or seniors who have been battle tested.  It is unrealistic to think that they should have been...wishful thinking. Is it realistic to think that a team that starts 5 frosh shouldn't have 8 losses by now?   And I wouldn't be surprised if they bow out in the first round in the En-See-Double-Aaa.  But I also would not count them out to get hot, start hitting some 3's and go deep.  Give 'em some Viagra!

    I still doubt whether any other coach in the land wouldn't have traded recruiting classes with Cal this year...and thrown in money and a couple of their vets to boot.