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Manual RedEye

Kentucky falls to Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

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A ball flying through the basket during a college basketball game. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

On Thursday, the Kentucky Wildcats lost to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 80-76 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament held in Pittsburgh for the South Region. 

The Wildcats finished their season with a record of 23-10 and a record of 13-5 within the SEC conference.  Though entering the tournament as a three-seed, Kentucky has only won one NCAA tournament game since 2019 and one SEC tournament game since 2019.

Despite being a high-ranked team that defeated Tennessee and Auburn by a large margin late in the season, the Wildcats weren’t able to make much progress in the postseason. They lost in the quarterfinals in the SEC Tournament to Texas A&M and have now lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Kentucky’s loss to Oakland reminded some viewers of Kentucky’s loss as a number two seed to the fifteen seed, the St. Peter’s Peacocks, in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats weren’t much better during last year’s NCAA Tournament, falling to Kansas State in the second round. 

The unexpected results over the past few years during the NCAA Tournament and the numerous postseason losses have some calling for Kentucky head coach John Calipari to be fired. 

“Calipari should be fired because he doesn’t start the good players…we start to get down after like ten minutes and then he finally puts in the good players,” Caitlin Day (11, MST) said.  

However, the buy-out for Calipari is nearly 35 million dollars after a new contract was signed in 2019. Calipari isn’t as concerned with the possibility, though, focusing on the team’s recent loss. 

“I have been through the ups and downs in this sport. I am really hurting on this one. This team I really felt could do so much more,” Calipari said, in his post-game interview.

Calipari also said that he “hate[s] it for these guys that people are gonna try to define this season by that game…that’s what’s devastating about this to me.”

Kentucky trailed by only a few points throughout the game and only lost by four points. However, whenever the Wildcats came close, Oakland would pull ahead, more often than not because of Guard Jack Gohlke. Gohlke ended up scoring 32 points in the game, two of those points free-throws and the rest three-pointers – ten three-pointers to be exact. 

For Kentucky, team veterans Antonio Reeves and Tre Mitchell not only helped lead the team since others were anxious, but they scored a combined 41 points – over half of the total points scored by Kentucky. Rob Dillingham and Justin Edwards were the only other players to put up double digits, both scoring 10 points each. 

With it being Reeves’ and Mitchell’s last seasons both took the loss hard but recalled their time and memories being on the team. 

“We went out together. We played the game together. We did everything together, and you know these bonds are going to last a lifetime and it’s going to be one of those things where, you know, I could just pick up the phone, I could call one of them, you know, those type of deals. So it’s definitely devastating, but you just gotta keep your head up,” Reeves said.

“I love these dudes, and I loved seeing them grow through the time that we had together….And I really did enjoy it thoroughly, just laughing, joking, competing with these guys every single day. It really was a blessing,” Mitchell said.

Though a devastating end to a season, the Wildcats will be back next year with most of their starting players returning. As a notorious basketball school, all eyes will be on them before, during and after the regular season of play, with fans hoping the Wildcats will get farther next season.

About the Contributor
Katie Dikes, Staffer
Katie Dikes is a staffer on Manual RedEye. She loves to write about all things sports, as well as covering Manual athletic events. In her spare time, she loves to listen to 80's music, watch any and everything sports-related, bake, binge Netflix, and read cheesy romance novels. You can contact her at [email protected].
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