Basketball

Kentucky men’s basketball off to worst start since 2000-01 with loss to Georgia Tech

Read more at www.espn.com

No. 20 Kentucky‘s 79-62 loss at Georgia Tech on Sunday marked the Wildcats’ third straight defeat and the first time they have started 1-3 since the 2000-01 basketball season.

Along with the poor start, this is also the first time Kentucky coach John Calipari has suffered two double-digit losses to unranked, nonconference opponents while coaching an Associated Press Top 25 team during his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Georgia Tech (1-2) and coach Josh Pastner had opened its season with losses to Georgia State and Mercer before Sunday’s victory.

One week ago, Kentucky suffered a 76-64 home loss to an unranked Richmond team, before falling by three to No. 7 Kansas in Indianapolis at the Champions Classic on Tuesday. A Kentucky squad had previously suffered a pair of double-digit nonconference losses to unranked opponents in only two seasons (1949-50 and 2002-03), per ESPN Stats & Information.

The last time Georgia Tech had won a game against a ranked nonconference opponent was Nov. 21, 2006, versus a Memphis team with Calipari as the head coach and Pastner as a top assistant.

Pastner, now 43, was 31 when he replaced Calipari at Memphis in 2009.

Georgia Tech was just better than Kentucky in every way on Sunday, with the Wildcats’ sloppy play (21 turnovers) and poor defense serving as their main problems. The Yellow Jackets’ 15 steals led to a dominant 33-4 advantage in points off turnovers. Georgia Tech also outscored Kentucky 36-20 in the paint.

Calipari, 61, said his young team, with four freshmen starting on Sunday, forced too many plays.

“Just make easy plays and attack,” Calipari said after the game. “We shot the ball better, did some better things, but they tired us out when they went with a smaller lineup; and when we had our chances, we turned it over.”

Calipari said he might make players run more if the team hits a certain number of turnovers in practice. His starters combined to commit 14 turnovers against Georgia Tech.

A tough schedule in the middle of a pandemic, however, has contributed to the Wildcats’ struggles by affecting the amount of time they can spend together off the court, Calipari said.

“There is no face-to-face contact,” Calipari said. “Very little with me, and you need that when you’re young.”

Moses Wright, who had 21 points, led five Georgia Tech players who finished with double digits in scoring.

For Kentucky, B.J. Boston, a projected lottery pick in next summer’s NBA draft, finished 4-for-11, while Terrence Clarke, also an NBA prospect, had a team-high 22 points.

Wildcats guard Davion Mintz, who finished 2-for-8 with seven points, said the hole Kentucky is in right now is “fairly deep.” He said the loss “needed to happen,” but he is hopeful the team can regroup.

“[We need to] look each other in the face and realize we’re not really good right now,” Mintz said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more at www.espn.com

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