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Rewind: UK has no luck vs. Irish

Nov. 29, 2012
Purcell Pavilion at Joyce Center; South Bend, Ind.

Kentucky guard Julius Mays led the Cats with 16 points in a 64-50 loss to Notre Dame (Matt McCarty/TCP)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Kentucky found out life on the road can be filled with potholes the size of canyons.

Notre Dame dominated the young Wildcats over the final 35 minutes en route to a 64-50 victory that had the sellout crowd of 9,149 at the Joyce Center storming the court at the final buzzer. The 50 points were the lowest Kentucky scored with John Calipari as coach, five fewer than the 55 the Cats put up against Connecticut in the 2011 Final Four.

The lead reached 20 in the second half before the Cats whittled it down to 10 with 2:35 remaining, but that was all they could muster. Kentucky came into the game leading the nation in field goal percentage at 55.8 but struggled all night to get good looks and finish the ones it did have, resulting in a 40.4 percent night from the field.

Notre Dame held Kentucky scoreless for nearly six minutes during an extended first half run that turned the game on its ear. The Irish led by as many as 13 points before settling for 36-25 halftime lead after Jarrod Polson flipped in a circus shot at the buzzer.

“My whole thing is you can play poorly but you can still defend and compete. In other words, two teams battling each other and Notre Dame wins. That's not what this was. This was Notre Dame throwing around Kentucky and winning by as many as they needed to win by. That's what the game was. I'm disappointed.”

“I'm glad we played them now because they're really young and talented and are going to be better in January and February. We're good (at home). We're really good here.' – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, on Kentucky

“We just got out-competed from start to finish. We didn't play hard. They competed harder than we did and wanted it more than we did. They played hard on offense. They played harder on defense. All around they competed harder than we did.” – UK senior guard Julius Mays

It probably shouldn't come as a shock but the only Kentucky player who appeared to play with any significant poise was Julius Mays. The graduate senior led Kentucky with 16 points on 4-of-7 three-pointers while also adding three assists and two rebounds in a team-high 35 minutes. Mays' mini-run of three three-pointers in a three-minute stretch late in the game helped set the Cats up for a final push that never did come, but he was clearly the most settled player on the floor for UK.

Notre Dame took control of the game with an extended run in the first half but the outcome was still in doubt when Kentucky pulled within 45-35 on a Ryan Harrow drive with 13:47 remaining. But Harrow's good play on one end of the floor was undone by his decision to leave a shooter open in the corner on the following possession, leading to a three-pointer by freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid that sparked a 10-0 spurt to push the Irish advantage to 20 with 10:25 left in the game. “That was the biggest play of the game,” UK coach John Calipari said. “It was a 10-point game and we had them, we've got them now and he just completely left the corner and ran under the basket. It's something … we don't leave corners. We left the corner about four or five times and that was the biggest one.”

Kentucky entered the game leading the nation in field goal percentage (55.8 percent) and fourth in three-point percentage (46.2 percent) but will take a serious tumble after struggling to put the ball in the basket against the Fighting Irish. The Cats made just 40.4 percent from the field, dropping them more than two full percentage points for their season accuracy (53.5 percent). Even with Mays' three late three-pointers the Cats made just 4-of-14 from beyond the arc (28.6 percent) and dropped to 43.3 percent for the season. Clearly, those are still terrific percentages for the season but the Cats' offense has not been particularly efficient against quality teams.

50 – Kentucky hasn't suffered the bitter taste of defeat very often in John Calipari's three-plus seasons as coach, but this was probably the Cats' most uncompetitive loss during that time. The Cats needed a late three-point barrage from Julius Mays to reach 50 points, which was the lowest point total for them during Calipari's tenure. The previous low was 55 in a 56-55 loss to Connecticut in the 2011 national semifinals. The 14-point margin of defeat represented only the second time UK had lost by double digits in Calipari's time as coach, coming in as the second-worst loss behind an 84-67 loss to Connecticut in the championship game of the Maui Invitational in November of 2010.

There was a good deal of freaking out being done by Kentucky fans on Twitter and the rest of the internet world but it would be a good time to remember this is just the sixth game of the season. Kentucky came into a venue where the home team had won 40 of its past 41 games and had won all 45 games played in November with coach Mike Brey. It's not surprising the Cats had issues, so the real question will be how they respond to getting spanked for the first time. There were a lot of lessons to be learned from this defeat.

Kentucky (4-2) will have a quick turnaround as it returns to Rupp Arena for a 12:30 p.m. tip against Baylor on Saturday.

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