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GREENSBORO- An arena full of Kentucky blue couldn’t will the Wildcats to a win on Sunday afternoon, with Kansas State sending them home on the first weekend, again. The chants of ‘Go Big Blue’ weren’t enough to carry this Kentucky team to the Sweet-Sixteen, as Keyontae Johnson delivered a dagger with 1:23 remaining.
The Kansas State crowd, tiny compared to BBN, started their own chants with :39 seconds remaining, sending Kentucky fans headed for the exits. If you were a fan of college basketball, this game certainly delivered, with eight lead changes in the second half alone.
There was a tense feeling in the arena after Kansas State kept fighting back, every time you thought Kentucky was about to go on a run. Every point the Wildcats scored in the first half came around the basket, as Kentucky tried to find different ways to score on their end.
Six lead changes in last ten minutes of game was the story from Greensboro. But the underlying tone of this game was Kentucky failing to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, again. This will be the third time in the past three years that the Cats’ will be watching the Sweet-16 from home.
Honestly, when Kentucky started the half on a 13-2 run, I thought this game could get out of hand. But Markquis Nowell had other plans for Kansas State, scoring 21 points in the second half alone.
Oscar Tshiebwe Couldn’t Carry Kentucky Alone
He tried his hardest to take his team to the Sweet-Sixteen, but Oscar Tshiebwe could only do so much, even while scoring 25 points and 18 rebounds. What does a team like Kentucky do when the offense is so one-dimensional? They try to force the ball, and take bad shots in the process.
“Tough way to end,” John Calipari noted postgame. “We had some guys really fight like crazy and then had a couple of guys offensively not play their game the way they played all year, but that stuff happens in this tournament.”
There was a point in this game that I thought John Calipari would get his team over the hump, but only getting 2 points from Jacob Toppin and 5 points from Antonio Reeves wasn’t the recipe. No, Kentucky looked like a team barely hanging on to the NCAA Tournament. while Kansas State kept finding ways to stay within striking distance.
When discussing the disappointment Kentucky fans are feeling at the moment, John Calipari mentioned that expectations are so high, some players might not be able to handle it when things go south.
“I have empathy. I understand what this program is about,” Calipari noted. “I think, again, that’s what makes it what it is, and that’s why I tell players, this isn’t for everybody because the expectations are so high.”
Kansas State Is Moving On, Behind Johnson & Nowell
They were overpowered all evening inside the Greensboro Coliseum, but Kansas State fans were the ones chanting as the final buzzer blew. Immediately following the game, Keyontae Johnson and his teammates headed straight towards the fans clad in purple. It was time to celebrate a trip to New York City.
What we saw out of Kentucky tonight was them having to rely on one player, when this team is so talented. Yes, they were dealing with some injuries, but who isn’t this time of year.
Once again, Kentucky is headed back to Lexington, with nowhere to go next weekend.
To the delight of the fans clad in purple, Big Blue Nation tried to startup a ‘Go Big Blue’ chant with :13 seconds remains, but fizzled out like their defense in the final three minutes of play.
There’s a party going on right now in Manhattan, Kansas. While the funeral begins on another Kentucky basketball season that ended in heartbreak.
2 CommentsLeave a Reply
If you’ve ever met a UK fan, then you love to see this.
Seriously, Cal? That’s your excuse?
Two years with a National Player of the year guy for zero conference titles and 1-2 in the Dance?
Cal is taking his team’s fan base for a ride. He’s mailing it in.