After being left out in the cold (and deservedly so), Kentucky found themselves with a #1 seed in the 2013 NIT Tournament. Despite earning a #1 seed however, Kentucky still has to take it's show on the road to take on the Colonials Robert Morris in the The Charles L. Sewall Center, who by the way isn't really that bad of a team and could very pose a major threat to the Cats if they are overlooked. The Colonial fans on the other hand have not overlooked this game as this will no doubt be the biggest game in the history of their school.
Cal said before the game "We let go of a game late in the year that landed us in a tournament that I have great respect for and has done a lot for a lot of programs, some programs that I've even coached." When asked about the environment they will face at Robert Morris Cal said, " Every game we play is in an environment like this. We are every ones game of the year or their Super Bowl. We looked good in shoot around, but they also looked good before Vanderbilt so we'll see. We talked a lot about pride, pride in the name on the front of jersey but also the back. I told them, that is your families name, do you have pride in that?." Strong words from a coach who has tried everything he could thing of to get his team to respond, it wouldn't take long to see if they were ready to answer the call.
Kentucky started the game off with a missed three from Ryan Harrow who hasn't looked comfortable shooting the ball all year. Robert Morris scores the first points of the game with jumper from the corner and the building exploded. Kentucky would have to work to keep the crowd out of this one as they were ready to pounce on anything positive for Robert Morris.
RMU also hit their first three of the game to take a 5-0 lead as the Cats looked rattled early on. The Cats couldn't get into any kind of offensive rhythm early as a second turnover put Robert Morris up 7-0. Anyone who thought this Kentucky team didn't belong in the NIT should have been watching the first 5 minutes of this game, then they would understand.
At the first TV timeout, things got worse as Robert Morris took a 9-0 lead with Lucky Jones going to the line for a chance at a "and one" to put the Colonials up 10-0. I never thought this team would be so hard to watch, but I guess I was wrong. I spent the majority of the day at work telling people not to take this team lightly because they could actually play. Looks like someone should have told Kentucky the same.
Jarrod Polson score the first points for the Cats to set the score at 10-2. The ironic part of this game is as much as Vanderbilt made Kentucky look like an NIT team, Kentucky did an even better job of making Robert Morris look like they should have been in the NCAA Tournament.
Jimmy Dykes had an interesting comment during the first half when he said "If you play for Kentucky and you're afraid of this type of environment then you need to leave. You need to transfer or go to the NBA because you will not survive here." Well said Jimmy D.
Kentucky went to the break down 28-27 after their performance in the first half left a lot to be desired to put it easy.
(Game tracker was nowhere to be found for this game, I don't blame it)
TONIGHT'S ATTENDANCE FOR THE KENTUCKY/RMU GAME WAS 3,444, THE LARGEST CROWD EVER FOR A ROBERT MORRIS GAME.
Archie Goodwin was your leading scorer at the half with 10pts, but the story of the game so far was the fact that Kentucky had 9 made shots and 9 turnovers. I said in my preview to this game that turnovers held the potential to be the death of the Cats in this one, up to this point it was looking to be the case.
The somewhat shocking stat was the fact that Kentucky was 8-12 from the charity stripe in the first half while claiming 14 rebounds and only 4 assist on 9-17 (1-6 from three) shooting.
On the flip side, Robert Morris had only 5 turnovers, 9 rebounds, 6 assists on 10-25 (3-10 from three) shooting and was 5-5 from the free-throw line.
In what was a clear message to one Ryan Harrow, Jarrod Polson got the nod to start in the second half. That's been the story for Harrow who has struggled pretty much all season long to run the point at a high level, something a John Calipari coached team is known for.
Goodwin drive, Goodwin charge, some things will never change i'm afraid. At the first timeout of the second half Kentucky trailed 34-31 in what had to be the ugliest game this squad has played all season long. The longer the game went, the less interested this team looked and the more confident RMU grew. With each Wildcat miss and each Colonial make, you could see their confidence grow, something these Cats have lacked for the better part of the season.
To add the icing on the cake, Kyle Wiltjer who has struggled the last couple of months fouled a Lucky Jones on a made three and of course he converted the free-throw to extend their lead to 38-31.
Cal called a timeout with 13:49 to go as Robert Morris took a 40-31 lead and looked to try and end Kentucky's season early. In no time at all RMU had built a 46-36 lead with 10:15 to go in Kentucky's season. This game was almost vomit inducing with every play, or lack there of.
Finally an end to what has to be one of the most miserable seasons Kentucky fans have had to endure for quite a while. Cats fall to Robert Morris 59-57 on two last second free-throws by RMU.
As a fan of college basketball you have to be happy for Robert Morris, it was the biggest game they'll ever play and they fought for the win. Well deserving.