BY RACHEL SHULHAFER
Six exhibition games in eight days proved to be grueling even for a University of Kentucky basketball team that boasts nine McDonald’s All-Americans, and seasoned veterans such as the Harrison twins and Alex Poythress. The Wildcats were 5-0 going into the final game of their Big Blue Bahamas trip on Sunday. They lost 63-62 on a last-second shot to the Dominican Republic National Team, whom they defeated on Friday 84-71.
Despite the disappointing ending, the Cats won their first five games by an average of 20.4 points, with their narrowest win coming on Saturday when they beat French professional team Chalons-Reims 77-72.
Like any team of normal humans that had just played a full week of an intense sport, the Cats seemed to be exhausted and out of gas on Sunday. They led by double digits with under 10 minutes left in the game, but watched that lead fizzle as the minutes wound down. Dominican player Jack Michael Martinez hit a jumper over Andrew Harrison with 2.6 seconds left to give his team a one-point lead, which was ironic given the fact that Andrew’s twin brother, Aaron, hit a last-second game-winner in last year’s Final Four. The only thing that could have been worse for Kentucky is if Dominican guard and former Louisville player Edgar Sosa had made that shot, reminding everyone of the dagger he shoved into the hearts of Big Blue Nation in 2009.
Coach John Calipari watched from the top row of the bleachers, and let his assistant coaches take over for the fifth time in the Bahamas. He seemed pleased despite the loss, and acknowledged that fatigue was a huge factor.
“This trip probably should have been six days,” Calipari said. “This was a great run of games and experiences for these young people. We kind of died. We didn’t have it physically.”
The Cats have a couple more months to get into shape before the regular season starts in October, but they already look like a team that’s going to be dominant.