The Kentucky Wildcats were ranked No. 1 overall to begin the preseason, but fell short in just their third game of the season to the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans, 78-74. Sloppy is the best word to describe the way Kentucky played against the Spartans.
John Calipari has to do something about his team’s dreadful free throw shooting. It doesn’t matter if his team is made up entirely of future NBA players; it’s impossible for a team to win in college basketball anymore without making a decent number of free throws.
The lone bright spot in free throw shooting for the Wildcats was freshman Andrew Harrison. He scored 11 points, but was 4-for-4 from the free throw line. The two highest point scorers in the game for Kentucky, James Young (19) and Julius Randle (27), went a combined 11-for-20 from the free throw line. Randle played an outstanding game, but seven turnovers are unacceptable against a team of the Spartans’ caliber.
Free throws are the easiest way for these players to get points. If they don’t start hitting them soon, other teams are going to begin fouling all the time because they know that Kentucky can’t hit them. Calipari needs to focus on free throw shooting in practice this week because poor free throw shooting could really harm this squad later on in the season against the tough SEC teams.
The good news for Kentucky is that it was just one loss due to a few mistakes by inexperienced players, and they still nearly pulled off the win. Mistakes like poor free throw shooting and bad decision making can be fixed, and the Wildcats are still far from out of the National Championship talk.