LEXINGTON, Ky. – Baylor’s comfort with the zone defense on Saturday created uneasiness for No. 8 Kentucky.
It left the Wildcats with a 64-55 loss to the Bears, a two-game losing streak and the end of their 54-game winning streak at Rupp Arena.
Not to mention a lot of soul searching.
“They came in here and executed what they were supposed to be doing,” Kentucky freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “I gave them credit for that. We shot ourselves in the foot. We didn’t make shots.”
Kentucky’s struggles with Baylor’s combination of zone alignments were symbolized by its failure to get the ball inside to its big men and a failure to answer it from the outside.
The Wildcats (4-3) shot just 30 percent, their lowest under coach John Calipari. That was 10 percent worse than in Thursday’s 64-50 loss at Notre Dame.
“That’s what happens when you have a bunch of freshmen out there,” Calipari said.
Las Vegan Pierre Jackson (Desert Pines) scored 17 points, and Isaiah Austin and A.J. Walton each added 11 for the Bears (5-2), who beat the Wildcats for the first time in eight tries.
Baylor also avenged last year’s Elite Eight loss to Kentucky, which went on to win its eighth NCAA title behind freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Calipari’s latest crop of talented of talented freshmen is clearly not at that level yet.
Though Calipari has insisted from the outset that center Cauley-Stein, forwards Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel and guard Archie Goodwin might be as good as their predecessors by the spring, they were going to encounter some bumps along the way.
Baylor provided plenty with its zone and athleticism that at time left Kentucky’s youngsters flat-footed.
Goodwin led Kentucky with 17 points before fouling out with 1:44 remaining. Poythress added 13 points and Noel eight.