Baylor’s historical résumé had been lacking a true non-conference road win over a ranked opponent. It’s only fitting, then, that the program’s first such win in 19 tries not only dethroned a killer home team, but also snapped the longest active home winning streak in college basketball.
John Calipari lost in Rupp Arena for the first time as Kentucky head coach and the Wildcats dropped their first home test in 56 games as the Bears waltzed into the fabled venue, clamped down on defense and upended a pair of titanic streaks extending more than 50 games apiece. Welcome to life off the schneid, Baylor. Your reward: an indelible spot in the record books.
Twitter recap: Turnovers abound, good shooting not so much. UK rules glass, but shoots <30% from floor. Game to forget for Noel, Wiltjer; remember for BU.
Turnovers. This game won’t ever be used as an instructional video about fundamentals. Baylor coughed up the ball 19 times—most of those 19 giveaways were unforced—while Kentucky turned the ball over 16 times itself. The shooting was bad enough, especially on Kentucky’s end, but to combine for 35 turnovers certainly isn’t the recipe for a crisp offensive basketball game.
Missing bunnies. The Wildcats shot a tick worse than 30-percent for a reason (well, many reasons). Their shooting percentage around the rim was somewhere in the neighborhood of a pedestrian 3-point shooting average. Kentucky—Nerlens Noel being the main culprit—missed at least a dozen freebies in the paint. The Cats can’t complain about not having good looks at the basket. They should, however, regret what little they did to capitalize on those opportunities. Teams that decidedly win the rebounding battle seldom lose, especially at home, unless they shoot as poorly as Kentucky did on Saturday afternoon.
No-el. He was assertive today, which was a pleasant surprise. His motor wasn’t the problem; his right arm was. Noel was plain awful, hitting just 3 of his 14 field goal attempts (which is criminal for an above-the-rim center who operates exclusively in the paint on offense). Forget Anthony Davis. Big Blue nation would settle for a second coming of Jorts at this point. With Noel playing at this mediocre level, the Cats are nothing more than a middle-of-the-pack team in an improved SEC.
Wiltjer absent again. His shot has completely abandoned him after a hot start to the year. It certainly doesn’t help that opposing defenses don’t have to double-down on the post, as they did last year with Davis in the middle, thereby freeing up Wiltjer for open looks. The sophomore forward made just one of his 11 shot attempts (1-9 3FG) in Saturday’s loss. Since his 7-for-11 3-point barrage against Lafayette, Wiltjer is 3 for his last 22 from behind the arc. Yikes. Wiltjer is having to work harder for his shots than he did last year [and against Lafayette], which has led to a spike in forced, off-balance heaves like you saw this afternoon. A shooting specialist assuming a go-to role on offense is usually a death sentence for offensive efficiency, unless that player is Chris Mullin, Reggie Miller or J.J. Redick. Needless to say, Kyle Wiltjer isn’t in that company.
If only Baylor was well-coached. Baylor’s individual talent will match up vis a vis any team in America, as the Bears proved in Lexington. Going up against the premiere talent factory in college hoops, Baylor, not Kentucky had the best talent on the floor. That’s some statement. Baylor owns one of the five best point guard in college basketball (and the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year), the top freshman center in the land (and possibly best freshman irrespective of position), a cavalcade of versatile forwards and talented wings and a deadeye 3-point shooting specialist to spread the floor. These Bears have star-power, depth, elite-level athleticism and a delicate balance of youth and experience. But do they have the coaching to piece everything together or the indispensable commitment to defense to make it count?