Slumping Kentucky seeks to rebound vs. surging Cardinals

·2 min read

Rarely is a basketball game on Dec. 26 being termed as a must-win game for Kentucky.

But since 2020 is like no other year anyone has ever known, here's another unexpected twist. The Wildcats are 1-5 and their season, as John Feinstein once famously wrote about Bob Knight's Indiana in the mid 1980s, is on the brink.

Saturday's visit to in-state rival Louisville might provide a glimpse as to whether Kentucky can get its act together, or if its rarely suffering fans will have to find out how the other half lives this winter.

"I'm expecting this Kentucky team to play extremely hard on defense," Cardinals coach Chris Mack said. "They're long and athletic, and they make some mistakes, but they make up for it by deflecting passes and blocking shots."

That being said, the Wildcats aren't deflecting enough passes, blocking enough shots -- or making enough shots. Since a season-opening rout of Morehead State, Kentucky hasn't won a game in a month. Granted, three of the teams it has lost to have spent time in the Top 25, but moral victories aren't the reason this program has hung up so many banners inside Rupp Arena.

And feelings have been frayed on -- and off - the court. During a 75-63 loss to then-No. 22 North Carolina on Dec. 19, cameras caught freshman Cam'Ron Fletcher crying late in the game, upset over receiving just two minutes of playing time.

Coach John Calipari fairly winced over the scene and then asked Fletcher to step away from the program on Monday. On Thursday, Calipari told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he expected Fletcher to return to the squad.

Calipari also took a run at ESPN, which is airing the game on Saturday instead of ESPN2.

"Why do you think they did that?" he asked. "They're hoping, 'Here's number six.'"

To ruin what he perceives to be the four-letter network's wishes, Calipari has to get more offense from his team. The Wildcats are shooting just 42.6 percent from the field and a pitiful 24.3 percent on 3-point attempts.

Brandon Boston is their top scorer at 14.5 points per game, but he's made just 33 of 87 attempts from the field.

Meanwhile, Louisville (5-1) is coming off a 64-54 win on Tuesday night at Pittsburgh in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

David Johnson (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Samuell Williamson (14 points, 12 rebounds) each produced the first double-doubles of their careers.

Carlik Jones (16 ppg, 6.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists) is the Cardinals' leading scorer.

--Field Level Media