LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky needed a break to get over a shocking 67-74 loss to Evansville.
“Everybody was down, but the next day everybody got back in here,” junior Nick Richards said Sunday. “We just talked and we took it as a learning experience. We didn’t take it as a loss even though we did lose, but we just took it as a learning experience.”
Along with Richards, Kentucky freshman guard Johnny Juzang also was disappointed in the narrow loss to the Purple Aces, but agreed the setback served as a learning experience.
“It was a tough one for sure, a tough loss. Not one that you see coming. But I think with anything, you take what you can from it. You can learn a lot from a loss. Luckily, it’s early in the season and not in March, when it really counts. (We’re) definitely learning a lot from it.”
The top-ranked Wildcats (2-1) return from a five-day layoff with a contest against Utah Valleyon Monday, the first of three games in a six-day span. Kentucky coach John Calipari said the layoff was beneficial for his squad.
“We needed it. I needed a day and a half to come outside from under the covers,” he said. “When you’re under the covers like that for a day and a half – that’s not true, 24 hours I was. ... I think they know now that every game, we have a chance to beat anybody – and lose to anybody if we don’t compete. If we play great defense, we’ll have a chance in every game. We’re still trying to figure out the offense.”
Calipari isn’t sure how his team will respond but is optimistic his squad will rebound from a loss that will cost the Cats the top-ranking when they are released Monday.
“My guess is we’ll start the game tentative just because you’ll have the dregs of the last game, and then hopefully they’ll just get going and play basketball and play free and literally play like you have nothing to lose — because they (the other team) will,” Calipari said.
EJ STILL OUT
Calipari said sophomore forward EJ Montgomery is still out because of an undisclosed injury but hopes he will be back in approximately seven days,
“He’s not on the court with us but he’s doing some stuff,” Calipari said. “My guess is a week away. I don’t know — maybe longer. It’d be nice to get him back and have a roster. The other side of this is it’s hard to practice when you’re down to seven, eight guys. Like, how do you really scrimmage to get after each other the way you need to? “
Montgomery has missed the past two games and scored six points in the opener against Michigan State.
ROOM FOR LYNN
Kentucky quarterback Lynn Bowden has offered to walk-on with the Wildcats to give the team some muchf-needed depth, but Calipari expects Bowden to keep playing football especially following Saturday’s 38-14 win over Vanderbilt that moved Kentucky within one game of becoming bowl eligible for the fourth year in a row.
“I don’t want to jinx it, but if they get one more win, they’ll be playing for a long time. I think Mark (Stoops) would kill me if I said, ‘Yeah, send Lynn over,’” Calipari said. “But he’s a competitor, boy, whew. I mean he rolled his ankle so bad (a couple of games ago). I mean, he rolled it so bad that I thought he was out for the game. He was mad that he rolled his ankle because he had to come out for three plays. Like, rolled it. And went back in and won that football game a couple of weeks ago when they had to win and stayed in the game and won the game. It’s incredible stuff. He’s the ultimate competitor, I’ll tell you that.”
Gametracker: Utah Valley State at Kentucky, Monday, 7 p.m. TV/Radio: ESPN2, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.