LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Terrence Clark doesn’t think it will take much for Kentucky to get back on track going into Tuesday night’s showdown against No. 7 Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic.
“I think everybody is kind of motivated to come back and bounce back from the loss that we took,” Clarke said Monday.
That loss — a surprising 76-64 setback to Richmond — dropped Kentucky 10 spots in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Kentucky fell to No. 20 after taking a bite from the Spiders, who debuted in the poll at No. 19. It was Kentucky's largest margin of defeat in John Calipari’s tenure.
Clarke said the loss revealed some flaws but also gave Kentucky some building blocks.
“After going over film, there’s a lot of things we would have changed,” he said. “For us, really, we hit on defense. I felt like we played a great defensive game against Richmond. We limited the backdoors and layups that they usually take. Tough shots that they made. Coming back from it, we’re just going to bounce back, play as hard as we can and try to get a win tomorrow.”
In the loss to Richmond, Calipari said a two-minute stretch in the second half gave the Spiders the edge they needed to overcome a six-point deficit and turned the margin into a three-point lead that remained intact and blossomed before the final buzzer.
“We were up six and we were ready to go up eight and all of a sudden you turn around in two minutes and you’re down three and should have been down six,” he said. “They missed a wide-open 3. And so, the lesson to them is, that’s why you gotta play. You gotta know how to stop the bleeding. I’ve gotta teach them how to play winning basketball. We’ve got good players, but they’re not ready to play winning basketball the way they’re playing right now.”
Calipari also singled out his team’s 21 turnovers that resulted in 20 points in transition for Richmond.
“We went from a very unselfish basketball team (to a selfish team),” Calipari said. “I’ve never coached a team that had no assists in the second half."
The Jayhawks (1-1) opened the season with a 102-90 loss to top-ranked Gonzaga, before defeating St. Joseph’s for their first win of the season last week. Much like Richmond, the Wildcats will be facing an experienced team.
“They’re a veteran (team). They’ll fight. It’s going to be a hard game for us. We know it. Just like the Richmond game was a hard game. No fans,” the UK coach said.
Calipari said the lack of a packed arena has resulted in an adjustment for his squad and added that “it affects the game” and a “big reason that we have the kind of run at home that we’ve had.
“Without them, it’s going to hurt. But guess what? Everybody has the same issues,” he said. “The only difference is Rupp Arena is Rupp Arena, and it’s one of those things. I said this a week and a half ago, two weeks ago, it would affect us more than any other team.”
In an effort to beat an anticipated snowfall, the Wildcats departed for Indianapolis on Monday.
“We are leaving today because of this weather,” he said. “I got spooked when you wake up and there is a foot of snow on the ground. I’m like, we better get up there or we may be getting up there an hour before the game, so we are leaving today.”
And Clarke can’t wait to get to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and jump on the big stage.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotions,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, I’m ready to play. I’ve got a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of stuff going through my head, but it’s basketball. As a team, we want to go out there and play our best game so we can get the win.”
Gametracker: Kentucky vs. Kansas, 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or Twitter @keithtaylor21