1. Despite Everything That Went Wrong...
... the Wildcats still had a good look for Malik Monk with two seconds left that could have sent the game into overtime. Big Blue Nation is going to have a little less holiday cheer this season, but should not feel like the sky is falling. Kentucky shot 39.7 percent from the field, made only five of 22 attempts from 3-point range, missed 10 free throws, got out-rebounded 40-36 and had its worst assist-to-turnover ratio (10:13) of the season, yet was still in a position to win against the No. 10 team in the nation, on its home floor, playing perhaps its best game of the season. A play here or a play there, and the narrative today is talking about how a young group of Cats went into a hostile environment and gutted out a hard-fought victory. "Thank God it's December 21st. I've got time," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "They are a terrific team that is going to get better and better," Louisville head coach Rick Pitino added. They are both right.
2. More Bam, Fewer J's
A common theme in both of Kentucky's close losses this season was the backcourt settling for too many jumpers and center Bam Adebayo not getting enough touches in the low post. On a night when his teammates shot under 40 percent, Adebayo was one of the bright spots for UK in the halfcourt offense. He went 5-for-6 from the floor and overpowered Louisville's big men for a number of vicious dunks. He finished with 11 points despite going only 1-for-6 at the free throw line, something of an outlier as he's been close to 70 percent over the last five games. I fully expect Calipari to make feeding the post a major focus of this holiday practice schedule prior to the Cats' SEC opener on Dec. 29 at Ole Miss. The one exception to this would be if the UK boss follows through on his idea to play a four-guard lineup similar to the approach defending national champion Villanova uses. Getting sharpshooter Mychal Mulder on the floor for more minutes would undoubtedly help this team in the halfcourt offense if he can continue to improve on the defensive end of the floor. The two ideas are not mutually exclusive, either, as Adebayo would have a second shooter on the wing to complement Monk for some inside-out action. If the Cats continue to struggle to get any offensive production from the 4 spot with Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel, it may be worth a look.
3. Vegas Nailed It
A lot of people -- myself included -- were scratching their heads when the Vegas line opened with Louisville as a two-point favorite. It just didn't add up, on first glance. How were the Cardinals, a fantastic defensive club, going to generate enough offense to keep pace with the Cats? But when the dust settled and the final seconds ticked off the clock, there it was, a one-possession game, and the Cards did not have to "muck it up" to win. Perhaps we weren't paying enough attention to the fact that UK has established a pretty clear track record in its first true road game of the season under Calipari. With this loss, the Cats dropped to 2-6 in that scenario during the Calipari era. Considering that Coach Cal's overall winning percentage at UK was 83 percent entering last night's game, it's pretty alarming that the figure was 29 percent in first road games. It's important to note, though, that he's basically bringing in a brand new team loaded with freshmen every year, and here are the programs that happened to be the first road game each season he's been here: Indiana, North Carolina, Indiana, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA and Louisville. Nobody's winning many games at those places. Perhaps UK needs to re-think its scheduling for the future and find a way to get a more manageable road test for its freshmen before taking on a blueblood.