The Kentucky men's basketball program is a blue blood that has seen some lows over the years. But it has never lost games quite like this before.
The No. 17-ranked Wildcats fell 89-85 to unranked Gonzaga on Saturday, their third straight loss at home. It is the first time Kentucky has ever lost three in a row at Rupp Arena, which opened in 1976 and has seen six head coaches over the years.
The last time Kentucky lost three home games in a row was 1966, the year Rupp Arena's namesake, Adolph Rupp, had arguably the worst season of his career, with a 13-13 record. Funnily enough, that team featured a senior guard by the name of Pat Riley.
The Wildcats' previous home losses this season were a 103-92 shootout against No. 6 Tennessee and a 94-91 upset by Florida. Add a 105-96 win over Georgia before the streak, and Kentucky has allowed an average of 95.5 points in its past four home games.
The Gonzaga loss was at least close. The Bulldogs appeared to take control with a 42-32 lead at halftime, but Kentucky came back and retook the lead less than eight minutes into the second half. It was neck-and-neck from there, with four lead changes, until Gonzaga took control in the last couple of minutes.
Kentucky's final offensive possessions didn't exactly inspire confidence, particularly when an attempt at a lob to tie the game was easily intercepted in the paint. Just watch for yourself:
Five times Kentucky has had a chance to tie or take the lead on the final possession.
These are those five possessions. pic.twitter.com/YajYVGPxEN
— The Field of 68 (@TheFieldOf68) February 11, 2024
The vibes of Rupp Arena in the final seconds weren't great:
Fans leaving before games over.
Wave of boos come in as clock hits zero.
Gonzaga ran the same play over and over. Center sets a screen and rolls down and post up our skinny weak center. Leads to 2 points or 2 free throws.
They scored every time on the same play.
Fire Cal!!!!! pic.twitter.com/doJkp9En4Y
— KentuckyBlues (@KentuckyBluesUK) February 10, 2024
The big difference was Gonzaga's front line, as forwards Ben Gregg, Graham Ike, Anton Watson and Braden Huff combined for 66 points and were primarily responsible for a 43-31 rebounding disparity.
Another ugly loss will do no favors for Kentucky head coach John Calipari, whose tenure in Lexington might not be able to take another disappointing season. The Wildcats' record sits at 16-7 with a 6-4 conference record that ties them for sixth in SEC play. That's not going to cut it for most Kentucky fans.
Gonzaga gets a win it badly needed
On Gonzaga's side, the win was perhaps its biggest of the season.
The Zags haven't looked their usual mid-major monster selves this season, with an 18-6 record already tying the program's mark for most losses since 2016. With Saint Mary's two games ahead in the WCC standings, Kentucky loomed as something of a must-win if Gonzaga wanted to keep its NCAA at-large hopes alive.
Kentucky is Gonzaga's first Quadrant 1 win of the season. The Bulldogs were clearly feeling good after the game:
Kentucky's next chance to end its home losing streak will be Tuesday against Ole Miss.