Calipari after Kentucky loss at Tennessee.

Calipari after Kentucky loss at Tennessee.

KNOXVILLE — When Kentucky traveled to Knoxville, many wondered if it would be a trap game because of the upcoming Top 5 match-up against Kansas. The Wildcats fell to the Volunteers, 82-80, and while no one can truly know how much John Calipari’s young squad was looking ahead to the Jayhawks, we do know UK tumbled into the trap of falling in love with the three-pointer.

In his post-game comments, Calipari said his players need to do what is right for the team, not what is right for them individually. Hitting a bunch of threes will get you lots of attention, but that isn’t necessarily what is best for the team. Tennessee understood that. Kentucky didn’t. Malik Monk had three more 3-point attempts than the entire Tennessee team (Monk: 3-of-13; UT: 5-of-10).

Both teams had lots of success in lane. Tennessee did a lot of its damage driving the ball and scored 42 points in the paint.  Bam Adebayo was nearly unstoppable once he got the ball down low, going 7-of-8 from the field. And when Tennessee fouled him, he was just as accurate from the line, also going 7-of-8 on free throws. This isn’t a one game aberration for Kentucky’s big man. In his last five games, Adebayo is 21-of-25 from the floor – that is a staggering 84%. What’s right for the team is to get Bam Adebayo the ball more.

Another story-line leading up to the game was Adebayo’s need to be more assertive. Despite his large stature, it seems as though Adebayo is not the most outspoken player on the team. At one point in the game, Adebayo even went to his coach to request the ball in such a way that made Calipari laugh.

Kentucky had a chance to get a road win in the SEC but, much like Malik Monk, the Cats slipped up and the chance went away. Calipari knew a loss at Tennessee was possible; he also saw the puddle of sweat on the floor that could potentially trip up one of his players.  A UK manager didn’t clean up the perspiration Calipari had spotted on the floor and the Kentucky players didn’t listen to their coach and get the ball inside to Adebayo enough. The result was a loss to a team that was only 10-9 coming into the game.

The Volunteers did what was best for their team by continually driving the ball to the basket.  The Wildcats did what, in their minds, was best for themselves individually and shot three-pointers. Kentucky finished 6-24 from behind the arc (only 25%) and one of those makes was a desperation heave from Isaiah Briscoe as the clock was about to run out, which no impact on the game.

Calipari said all is not lost this season and he believes he has the parts for a good team. But if Kentucky falls into another three-point trap, this season might end earlier than Wildcat fans would like.

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