The Wildcats dropped to 17-9 on the season with a road loss at No. 10 Auburn on Wednesday night. It was nothing disappointing defeat, a ten-point loss where the Wildcats showed enough life to win, yet ultimately go in their own way enough times to take the 76-66 loss. It was the fourth loss in a row in a season that has quickly spiraled out of control in SEC play. Alabama is up next for the ‘Cats on Saturday.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Try to keep Kevin Knox hot
If Kentucky had given Kevin Knox any help then they would have won in Auburn. The man that was anointed as the Wildcats go-to guy before the season had even begun that the sum total of the Kentucky offense at times on Wednesday night. He accounted for over one-third of the Wildcats points in the first half – scoring 12 of the 33 Kentucky put up – and he finished with 19 for the game.
Knox couldn’t do it all on his own against Auburn, but a similar performance against Alabama is a huge key to what Kentucky wants to do. It is unlikely that the rest of the offense will be as inefficient against the Crimson Tide, so if Knox can shoot and score at such a rapid clip then it will be a bonus. Kentucky needs Knox to be front and center every game until the season ends, not fading into the background and letting others take the lead role.
Find a way out of the bad stretch
Where Knox really needs to take the lead is when Kentucky as a team is going through a bad stretch. In the past the Wildcats have always had one player they could turn to for a near guaranteed bucket – or a big defensive stop – but this year’s team hasn’t yet found that player. That is why the bad stretches seem so common and why they hurt so much.
The Wildcats’ coaching staff knows this. All week long they talked about avoiding the drought that they feared would come at some point. The annoying aspect of these bad stretches is that they have come during all periods of the game, so John Calipari can never be comfortable with his side. Against Auburn, the Wildcats saw a four-point lead become a seven-point deficit between the eight and four-minute marks.
Good teams don’t let stretches like this happen and against Alabama, Kentucky just has to be more consistent.
Stop Colin Sexton
When Kentucky plays Alabama on Saturday the most impressive freshman on the court will be playing for the Crimson Tide. Guard Colin Sexton has been on a tear this season, averaging 18.3 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. He shoots 43.6-percent from the field and 34.1-percent from downtown. Simply put, Sexton has the ability to win the game singlehandedly for Alabama.
The other bad news for Kentucky is that Sexton hasn’t had a bad game in his last six outings. He scored just seven points on his return from a two-game absence through injury against Ole Miss back in late January, but since then he has never scored less than 15 points in a game. It is that level of consistent scoring that Kentucky needs to disrupt this weekend.