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Kentucky Gets Stunned In Loss At LSU

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© Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky was stunned in an upset road loss on Wednesday night in Baton Rouge, where they fell to a 75-74 loss to LSU. Antonio Reeves and Rob Dillingham both carried the Cats, but a 15-point lead slipped away, and an unlucky tip-in by LSU in the final seconds was the game after a go-ahead jumper by Rob Dillingham with a few seconds left.

Kentucky had a rough 2nd half, and it led to a stunning loss. Let’s look at what went down throughout the game that cost the Cats the game.

Rob Dillingham, Antonio Reeves Will Kentucky

It was these two that combined for 48 of Kentucky’s 74 points, with big shots by Dillingham in the final minutes, and one of those put Kentucky up by 1 point with 13 seconds left, but a last-second tip-in by LSU wasted the terrific clutch performance.

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Reeves led Kentucky in scoring with 25 points, and Dillingham finished with 23, and 21 of his points were in the 2nd half. Those performances ultimately couldn’t get it done, thanks to a 2nd half collapse and a last-second tip-in.

Kentucky Has 2nd Half Collapse

Kentucky started the 2nd half on a run to give them a comfortable 15-point lead. That lead turned out to be not so comfortable, as Kentucky let the lead slip away, getting down by as much as 5 points. From there it was back-and-forth, with Kentucky having to fight back. Defense was struggling during this time, with Kentucky not able to stop LSU from attacking the basket. Thanks to a clutch shot with 13 seconds left by Rob Dillingham, the Cats led by 1-point, but an LSU tip-in goes in for a tough road loss for the Cats

This was the story of the game to put it simply. It was a 6-minute stretch of a collapsing lead.

Calipari Says “Fifty-Fifty Balls” Cost Kentucky

After the game, Calipari spoke with the media (very briefly, discussing his thoughts on the loss. He stressed that “Fifty-fifty balls” and defensive issues cost them the game. “Fifty-fifty balls cost us the game. It’s all we talk about. Fifty-fifty balls,” Calipari said. “Don’t tell me about your offense. If you’re not going to come up with 50/50 balls, you can’t win.” Kentucky’s lead collapse was definitely a reason for the game being in the position it was, but getting loose balls was also part of that collapse. Calipari said that communication was an issue during Kentucky’s collapse of the 15-point lead.

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Calipari said he was proud, though, of how they fought back after collapsing. “I was proud of these guys, in this environment, doing what they did,” Calipari said. “Fought to get back, made baskets, (Rob) Dillingham made some unbelievable plays. He did what he does.”

It was another tough loss that puts Kentucky at 18-8 overall, 8-5 in SEC play, with 5 games left on the season. Kentucky brings in No. 13 Alabama to Rupp Arena on Saturday, a big opportunity to bounce-back after the tough road loss. Tip-off will be at 4 p.m., televised on CBS.

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Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

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It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

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Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

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“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

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REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

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The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

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