Excerpts from some media members who covered UK-Robert Morris game last night:
My column: Three hours before the game, RMU students were lined up waiting for the doors to open. Once inside, they were yelling and chanting and making noise two hours before the tip. When Kentucky players came on the floor for initial warm-ups, the students started chanting “Overrated! Overrated!” That might have applied in pre-season when John Calipari’s club was ranked No. 3 in the first Associated Press poll. It sure didn’t apply now for a team that couldn’t even make the NCAA field of 68.
Jerry Tipton of Herald-Leader: Kentucky, which led for only 29 seconds in the game, lost when Kyle Wiltjer missed an open three-pointer in the final seconds. Wiltjer’s miss set off a stampede by Robert Morris students onto the court at the Charles L. Sewall Center (affectionately known as “The Chuck”). Kentucky, which finished the season with a 21-12 record, failed to win a game away from Rupp Arena after Feb. 2.
Craig Meyer of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The circus was not in town, but with the defending NCAA champion Wildcats making an unusual appearance in the 3,056-seat Sewall Center, it might as well have been. And with the gaze of the college basketball world locked on the oft-overlooked commuter school in Moon, the Colonials rose to the occasion. Toole consistently compared his team’s story to that of Rocky Balboa, but the first “Rocky” movie did not end with him winning the heavyweight title. Robert Morris opted for a happier ending.
Brett Dawson of Cats Illustrated: John Calipari was born here, grew up just down the road from the Robert Morris campus where his Kentucky basketball team saw its season take its final breath on Tuesday. And maybe that was fitting. Poetic, somehow. As the echoes faded and the court-storming students filed out of the Charles L. Sewall Center after the Colonials’ 59-57 NIT first round win against Calipari’s Wildcats, the Kentucky coach already was talking about getting back to his roots.
Matt May of the Cats Pause: Kentucky basketball may indeed be fine – and make no mistake, this certainly appears as thought it will be little more than a blip on the radar – but that doesn’t lessen the string of how wildly the Cats flopped. This was supposed to be the latest No. 1 recruiting class to take college basketball by storm, an extension of the three groups that had arrived before them. Only this team hadn’t proven anything and appeared from the very beginning to be more enamored with the fame than the work it takes to earn it.
Will Graves of the AP: John Calipari and Kentucky experienced an entirely different kind of “one-and-done” in the opening round of the NIT. A year after cutting down the nets in New Orleans, the defending national champions were cut down in their coach’s hometown by Robert Morris, who let a 13-point second-half lead disappear before pulling out a 59-57 victory. Oh how far — and how quickly — the mighty have fallen.
Jon Hale of KyForward: Calipari has already secured his fifth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class, which could still add more players. Most recruiting analysts project the incoming class could be Calipari’s best yet. Mixing those players with some experienced returners could be the recipe for a special season, but the level of talent on the roster and competition for playing time could also theoretically influence players’ decision to stay or go.
Kyle Tucker of Courier-Journal: The Colonials scored the game’s first 10 points, led at the half and trailed for a total of 32 seconds. The Cats looked disinterested for most of the game, trailing by as many as 13, but made one last push. Down 53-42 with 6:32 to go, Kentucky (21-12) scored 11 unanswered points, sparked by freshman guard Archie Goodwin, to tie it with 3:15 left. The Cats almost immediately fell behind again.
Larry Vaught of Advocate-Messenger: “If any of us were saying we think we should leave, then we’d all be delusional. None of us need to leave,” Archie Goodwin said. “So I just feel that’s going to help us in the long run because next year we have a strong group coming in and we’re going to continue to get better. … I think it’ll work out for us in the end, like it did last year. If you recall, the only one that left was Brandon Knight – and Enes Kanter, but he didn’t play. The other guys came back and they got a championship. Hopefully we can do the same thing with this group.”
Les Johns of Kentucky Kernel: RMU’s tallest player was 6-foot-9, yet 7-footer UK freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein captured just four rebounds in 36 minutes of play. Freshman forward Alex Poythress grabbed just two in 27 minutes of play. How does that happen? The Cats were outplayed physically, as has been the case much of the season.