CRAWFORD | Georgia dims lights on UK's postseason hopes, 72-62
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It might not quite have been the night the lights went out in Georgia for the University of Kentucky's postseason basketball hopes, but the Bulldogs gave a pretty good turn to the dimmer switch.
Georgia beat Kentucky 72-62 for the Wildcats' fourth straight double-digit road loss, effectively turning the rest of the season into a succession of elimination games for UK, the defending national champion that has just one quality win on the season heading into its regular-season finale Saturday against SEC champion Florida in Rupp Arena.
In his postgame interview with Tom Leach, UK coach John Calipari repeated words he said he told his players in the locker room after the loss: "Beat Florida Saturday, and this all goes away. See ya. Get on the bus."
But the Wildcats didn't look capable of beating many teams at Georgia on Thursday night.
They could not shoot -- just 37.1 percent from the field for the game, including 6-for-26 from three-point range and 10 of 18 from the free-throw line. And they could not come up with big plays when given the opportunity.
It was a team badly in need of an individual to step up and lead it out of a winnable game in Athens, but the two prime candidates couldn't get anything going. Kyle Wiltjer was 2-for-11 from three-point range and Julius Mays, whom the Wildcats had looked to for leadership in some big wins at home, went scoreless in 38 minutes with only one assist and one turnover.
In short -- just more of the same. This Kentucky team, which was struggling to reach any kind of effective cruising altitude even with star center Nerlens Noel -- has not come close to reaching one without him, despite having three McDonald's All-Americans on the court.
Afterward, Calipari was both disgusted with his team, and himself.
"I'm so disappointed in the job I've done with this team, I can't even begin to tell you," he said to reporters outside the locker room in Athens. "I've never had a team that wasn't cohesive this time of year. . . . If this team doesn't have it, it's on me. What did I do?"
Later he said, "I'm disappointed in myself. If this is the point we're at, what I saw tonight, I've done a crap job."
With an RPI at 54 and dropping and only one victory against an RPI Top 50 team all season, it's likely UK now must win the SEC Tournament in Nashville next week to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, after back-to-back Final Four seasons. Calipari may talk about beating Florida Saturday at Rupp Arena erasing the loss at Georgia, but it's doubtful whether that win would be enough.
The Wildcats have the talent to pull a surprise. But they don't appear to have anything close to the maturity or chemistry to do it. Freshman Archie Goodwin, who scored 20 points in the loss, didn't sound hopeful.
"If we haven't changed over the duration of the season, I don't know what to say, it doesn't look like anything is going to change," he said. " . . . It's just a matter of us going out there and battling and competing. . . . If we don't do that against Florida we'll get embarrassed."
It's hardly the scenario anyone envisioned when UK began the season with a No. 1 recruiting class and No. 3 national ranking. But UK is in survival mode now. The only question is whether this young cast of characters can muster any ability to advance.
Copyright 2013 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.