Top Ranked Kentucky Wildcats Lose To Evansville Purple Aces

Kentucky Wildcats Evansville Purple Aces

One week ago, the Kentucky Wildcats upset then top-ranked Michigan State Spartans in the Champions Classic. Pundits around the country were praising John Calipari’s squad as a special group. Voters rewarded Kentucky with the new number one ranking in the latest AP poll. Then, on Tuesday night, the Wildcats inexplicably lost at home to the unranked Evansville Purple Aces out of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Kentucky Wildcats Lose to Evansville Purple Aces

The last thing you want to do is underestimate an opponent. Yet, that is the vibe that you got when you watched this game. Both teams played even for the first eight minutes, and then Evansville went on a run to go ahead by eight. The Purple Aces carried a four-point advantage into halftime. Kentucky finally gained the lead back on free throws by Nate Sestina with a little over 11 minutes to go. However, Evansville’s Shamar Givance nailed a three-point basket on the next possession, and the Purple Aces never looked back.

K.J. Riley led Evansville in scoring with 18 points, while Sam Cunliffe added 17, including the game-sealing free throws. Immanuel Quickley led Kentucky with 16 points, with star freshman Tyrese Maxey being the only other Wildcat to put up double-digit scoring at 15.

Down the stretch, it looked like Kentucky didn’t have a go-to guy to take over the game. Instead, they were left scrambling when the game entered its most urgent period. The team stats from the box score don’t present any one category that Evansville dominated. From watching this game, it just felt like the Purple Aces wanted it more.


KenPom gave Kentucky a 99 percent chance to win this game, with the Wildcats being 25 point favorites. Evansville was not even a mid-major program that was generating much buzz. The Purples Aces were picked to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley by the media. Coach Walter McCarty was more than likely not fazed by the Rupp Arena mystique though, as he played for Kentucky and helped them capture the 1996 title.

The loss snaps a 52 game winning streak against unranked opponents at home for Kentucky. Meanwhile, this was Evansville’s first victory over a number one team. It’s also the first time in the AP poll era that the number one team has lost multiple times in November in the same season.

Moving Forward

Coach Calipari will have to use this game as a teaching moment for his Kentucky Wildcats. They still have a chance to be one of the best teams in college basketball. However, as has been the case with past Calipari teams in Lexington, there is a learning curve to be had with so many fresh faces. Kentucky is not slated to face another ranked team until the Ohio State Buckeyes on December 21st. While the Wildcats’ next five games should be easy wins, nights like these remind us that nothing is guaranteed. You can be sure that Calipari will not let his team overlook another opponent this season.

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